B.C. First Nation opens province’s first farm-to-gate cannabis operation

Williams Lake First Nation councillor Chris Wycotte, left, Chief Willie Sellars and councillor Shae Chelsea outside WLFN’s new farm-to-gate cannabis facility during its grand opening Friday, May 6. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo- Williams Lake Tribune)Williams Lake First Nation councillor Chris Wycotte, left, Chief Willie Sellars and councillor Shae Chelsea outside WLFN’s new farm-to-gate cannabis facility during its grand opening Friday, May 6. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo- Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake councillor 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)Williams Lake councillor 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)
The cannabis plants require 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. These plants are in one of five growing rooms at the new Sugar Cane Cannabis farm-to-gate facility in Williams Lake. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)The cannabis plants require 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. These plants are in one of five growing rooms at the new Sugar Cane Cannabis farm-to-gate facility in Williams Lake. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake First Nation elders Estkwelanik Sandy, left, Victorine Alphonse and Willie Alphonse enjoy listening to the Cole Patenaude Band during the grand opening of Sugar Cane Cannabis held May 6. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Williams Lake First Nation elders Estkwelanik Sandy, left, Victorine Alphonse and Willie Alphonse enjoy listening to the Cole Patenaude Band during the grand opening of Sugar Cane Cannabis held May 6. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Members of the public tour the store front during the grand opening of Sugar Cane Cannabis held Friday, May 6. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Members of the public tour the store front during the grand opening of Sugar Cane Cannabis held Friday, May 6. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake First Nation hosts a grand opening at its Sugar Cane Cannabis growing facility Friday, May 6. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Williams Lake First Nation hosts a grand opening at its Sugar Cane Cannabis growing facility Friday, May 6. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
The Cole Patenaude Band perform at the Sugar Cane Cannabis grand-opening, May 6. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)The Cole Patenaude Band perform at the Sugar Cane Cannabis grand-opening, May 6. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Delaney Harrison, owner of Dee’s Dumplings, was one of the food vendors set up at the Sugar Cane Cannabis grand opening May 6. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Delaney Harrison, owner of Dee’s Dumplings, was one of the food vendors set up at the Sugar Cane Cannabis grand opening May 6. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Dylan Sellars, general manager of Sugar Cane Cannabis and Brittney Peever, Unity Cannabis store manager. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Dylan Sellars, general manager of Sugar Cane Cannabis and Brittney Peever, Unity Cannabis store manager. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Reta Seibert, left, along with her husband Karl, former city councillor Surinderpal Rathor, Trevor Seibert and his son Ryley Seibert were among the many guests and members of the public who attended the grand opening of Sugar Cane Cannabis, May 6. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Reta Seibert, left, along with her husband Karl, former city councillor Surinderpal Rathor, Trevor Seibert and his son Ryley Seibert were among the many guests and members of the public who attended the grand opening of Sugar Cane Cannabis, May 6. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
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 held May 6 in Williams Lake. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)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 held May 6 in Williams Lake. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Applause, cheers, live music and Canadian Olympic snowboarder Ross Rebagliati greeted the opening of Sugar Cane Cannabis — B.C.’s first farm-to-gate cannabis facility and the first in Canada on First Nations land — last week 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,” Williams Lake First Nation Chief Willie Sellars told Black Press Media at the May 6 opening of the state-of-the-art, 7,000-square-foot facility that will allow customers to purchase cannabis directly from the facility where it is being 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.”

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 First Nation aims to open more retail stores across the province, 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, who also attended has been working with WLFN and offered his congratulations.

“It’s fantastic; it’s a beautiful facility,” he said.

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.

Construction of a new mixed development building which will include a café, gathering space and four, open concept lofts on the second floor is anticipated to begin this summer in the lot adjacent to the Sugar Cane Cannabis parking lot.

Called The Osprey Nest, Sellars said ground-breaking will take place in the next couple of weeks.

Earlier this month, WLFN announced its intention to hold a referendum June 29, 2022 for members to vote on a proposed $135 million settlement with the federal government. The agreement-in-principle, if accepted, will settle a long-standing specific claim relating to WLFN’s displacement from their traditional village lands 160 years ago which now form the city of Williams Lake.

Roughly 400 members are eligible to vote of the community’s 800-plus members.

Read More: B.C. Interior First Nation breaks ground on farm-to-gate cannabis cultivation facility



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