From the Island, for the Island: Indigenous-owned grower + retailer builds community in the Cowichan Valley

Browsing one of Costa Canna’s four southern Vancouver Island retail locations, you’d likely notice some of the unique products available, among the more familiar national names.

You might also notice the knowledgeable service you receive and – given the uniqueness of many of those products – the budtenders’ willingness to spend a little longer to ensure you make the right choice for your unique needs.

What you may not be aware of is the community collaboration and development that’s also happening here.

With locations in Duncan, Colwood and Saanich, Cowichan Valley-based Costa Canna and sister business United Greeneries are owned by the Cowichan Tribes, guided by the Costa Canna Corp. management team, which has deep Island roots and experience in research and product development, navigating regulatory hurdles and driving business growth, explains Phil Floucault, President-CEO & Co-Founder.

Beyond generating revenue for the local Indigenous community, the collaboration is about job creation, career development and knowledge transfer, sharing business skills with the next generation of Cowichan leaders, Floucault explains.

To further those goals, the team developed a course with Vancouver Island University, initially geared to the cannabis industry, but now expanded to include other sectors as well, with an eye to providing education and experience, including a two-week practicum.

“We’re very much trying to go above and beyond to support career development and job placement for the local members,” Floucault says. “We want to see success for the Cowichan Tribes and we want to provide as much regulatory information as possible” – essential in the evolving landscape of the Canadian cannabis industry, particularly in relation to Indigenous communities.

While taxation, regulations and licensing are consistent with non-Indigenous producers, unique to Indigenous communities in B.C. is the opportunity to both grow and produce cannabis products and sell them through their own licensed cannabis retail store – rather than being restricted to selling their products through other licensees.

So while you’ll find a curated selection of THC and CBD products from numerous licensed Canadian producers on the Costa Canna shelves, you’ll also find some distinctive items with strong connections to the local community, Floucault says, pointing to the premium flower brand 18twelve, and the topical line Hulit – from the Coast Salish term meaning ‘to come alive’ – infused with local botanicals. “It’s really an homage to our Indigenous roots.”

Today, about 30 per cent of the retail staff are from the local Indigenous community, and about 20 per cent on the production side. Many of the key management positions are also held by local members and the goal is to continue growing those numbers.

“It’s really just trying to bring it back to our Island and our roots,” Floucault reflects.

Costa Canna is a licensed cannabis retailer. Only individuals 19 years of age or older are allowed on the premises and ID is checked.