Yellowknife officially has its own locally grown strain of commercial cannabis: Gas Banana.
On Dec. 1, ReLeaf NT launched the product, which is delivered by Boreal Cultivation.
“This is the first day that the product will be available in stores, making it a significant event for the team,” said Boreal Cultivation co-owner Jordan Harker, who noted that the product is sold to the NWT Liquor and Cannabis Commission, which distributes it to local authorized retailers.
Gas Banana went on sale in Ontario and British Columbia months ago and demand has outstripped supply, Harker said, adding that his company has set aside some inventory for the NWT regardless.
“Obviously this is where we’re from, and we’d like some of the flower to be available locally,” he said.
Despite the product’s popularity, there are challenges to growing it in the NWT, such as high utility costs, high labour costs and shipping logistics, Harker said.
He credited the local government for providing significant business support. The federal government is responsible for licensing, and there are many regulations that need to be followed.
“We’re selling a controlled substance, which I get, but those are definitely the challenges – a lot of red tape.”
It takes 13 to 14 weeks for Gas Banana to grow sufficiently and then be cut and packaged for store shelves. The facility, located in the Kam Lake area, houses about 500 plants currently. But expansion is on the agenda to meet demand.
“We could probably quadruple our production right now and still sell,” Harker said.
He also addressed the stigma associated with cannabis because it was illegal until Bill-C45 was passed in 2018, meaning recreational possession was no longer a crime. He shared his personal journey with cannabis, from recreational use to medicinal therapy. He believes it can be used for many things and hopes more people will recognize its benefits.
Luke Wood, owner of ReLeaf NT, said Harker is making inroads.
“What’s really good about him is he’s local,” Wood said. “If people come in, they ask for local cannabis, and this is his first (strain)… and I guess we’ll see what the feedback is but on paper, it looks fantastic.”
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