British Columbia to reserve shelf space for Indigenous cannabis producers

(This story has been updated with industry comment.)

Shelf space in British Columbia’s privately and publicly owned recreational cannabis stores will soon be reserved to highlight products from Indigenous producers.

The province announced the Indigenous Shelf Space Program in a Sunday night news release.

British Columbia wants to start the program in 2021.

“The program will highlight cannabis products produced by B.C. Indigenous producers in BC Cannabis Stores, helping consumers easily identify those products and make purchasing decisions,” according to the announcement.

But key details are up in the air, including whether participation by all of the province’s 250-plus recreational cannabis stores will be mandatory or voluntary.

Also missing are details involving wholesale procurement.

Indigenous entrepreneurs have been calling on the provincial and federal governments to do more to ensure equitable participation in the fledgling cannabis industry.

Wes Sam, co-founder and executive chair of Nations Cannabis in Burns Lake, Northern British Columbia, called the move a “positive step in the right direction toward Indigenous economic reconciliation.”

“After encouraging government to establish initiatives such as this for the past year and half, we hope that this is a signal that government understands the important role it can play in supporting the development of an industry in which Fist Nations can play a significant part,” he wrote in an email to Marijuana Business Daily.

Earlier this month, MJBizDaily reported that only about 4% of Canadian federal cannabis licensees are Indigenous-affiliated.

Sam said initiatives such as the Indigenous Shelf Space Program will help encourage First Nations entrepreneurs to step into the cannabis industry and encourage investment in their companies.

“As the province moves into a period of economic recovery from COVID-19, we believe that this emerging industry can play a significant role in helping rekindle the economy while creating investment and opportunities for First Nations in a regulated industry,” the Nations Cannabis founder said.

In the Sunday news release, Attorney General David Eby said the Indigenous Shelf Space Program will help the legal cannabis industry in B.C. grow in an inclusive way.

“By making it easier to know more about the product, those who choose to use cannabis can make careful decisions about what types of product they want to buy and what sectors of the industry they want to support,” he said.

According to the province, the highlighted products will be available at privately owned cannabis stores, the government-run BC Cannabis Stores and online store.

On Monday, the province announced a government-to-government agreement between the Williams Lake First Nation and British Columbia.

The agreement supports the Williams Lake First Nation’s interest in operating adult-use retail cannabis stores, including a marijuana production site with farm-gate sales.

Matt Lamers is Marijuana Business Daily’s international editor, based near Toronto. He can be reached at