Williams Lake First Nation showcases BC’s first farm-to-gate cannabis operation

Dylan Sellars, general manager of Sugar Cane Cannabis, and Brittney Peever, Unity Cannabis store manager. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo / Williams Lake Tribune

There was applause, cheers, live music and even a bouncy castle as Williams Lake First Nation celebrated the opening of Sugar Cane Cannabis – B.C.’s first farm-to-gate cannabis facility and the first in Canada on First Nations land – on May 6 in Williams Lake.

“It has been a very long journey when you look at what we have been through and what the staff has been able to pull together,” Chief Willie Sellars said of the state-of-the-art, 7,000-square-foot facility that will allow customers to purchase cannabis directly from the facility where it was grown.

“They realized this craft cannabis tourism vision model. It’s still a little bit surreal but you can see how pumped they are to showcase it to the public.”

Members of the public tour the store front during the grand opening of Sugar Cane Cannabis held May 6. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo / Williams Lake Tribune

Located within the city on South Mackenzie Avenue next to the community’s existing retail cannabis shop, Unity Cannabis, about 200 people attended the opening of Sugar Cane Cannabis. Highlights include speeches, a ribbon cutting, facility tours, food vendors, a live band, bouncy castle, airbrush tattoos. Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati even attended as a celebrity guest at the invitation of Chief Sellars.

Sugar Cane Cannabis master grower and quality control manager Brendon Roberts, left, Life Cycle Botanics sales representative Shane Beltramo, Canadian snowboarder gold medalist and marijuana advocate Ross Rebagliati and Life Cycle Botanics CEO Mark Qvist were on hand to answer questions from the public during the grand opening of the farm-to-gate cannabis facility, May 6 in Williams Lake. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo / Williams Lake Tribune

While working to open the farm-to-gate cannabis facility over the past two years, WLFN has been growing Unity Cannabis with retail stores now in Williams Lake, Penticton, Merritt and will be opening one in Lac La Hache in a few weeks.

The aim is to open more retail stores across the province, which will be supplied with cannabis grown in the facility in Williams Lake. The first crop should be ready to harvest in about five weeks.

“It’s not the gold rush that everyone expected it was, but it’s a nice niche little business that provides a revenue stream for WLFN and also provides job opportunities for people not only at WLFN but around the province,” Sellars said.

David Coney, B.C.’s director of Indigenous Government Relations BC Cannabis Secretariat, has been working with WLFN and offered his congratulations.

“It’s fantastic – it’s a beautiful facility,” he said at the opening.

Williams Lake Coun. Scott Nelson left chats with Dave Coney, director of Cannabis Secretariat, public safety and solicitor general, inside Sugar Cane Cannabis, viewing a room of plants presently being cultivated at the farm-to-gate facility in Williams Lake. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo / Williams Lake Tribune

WLFN councillor Chris Wycotte said he had his doubts it would come to fruition because he thought cannabis would be controversial.

“We had to take it to the community and the community supported it. There was no opposition. Maybe there were some concerns, but no opposition.”

Life Cycle Botanics, licensed in May 2020, supplies the plantlets to Sugar Cane Cannabis which are then transplanted and grow in five different rooms within the facility.

Each room is filled with plants that have unique flavours, strains, aroma, pharmaceutical properties and potencies, said quality control manager and master grower Brendon Roberts, who moved from Toronto for the job last year.

The plants need 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness.

“They go to bed at 7 p.m.,” he said.

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