Qualifying Examination complete

For those following my progress, I passed my Qualifying Examination (QE) last week in Guelph, Ontario.

I moved from a PhD student to a PhD candidate and now the real work begins.

The QE process required over eight months of researching, writing and describing foundational theories on which my project is based. These two theoretical bodies surround transitioning economies (focusing on those in rural B.C.) and stakeholder participation (again with a B.C. flavour). I then presented key tenets of these literatures in a 30 minute presentation to an examination committee of four people and a small group from the public. Following my presentation, was a couple of hours of questioning – a process intended to elicit conversation and uncover deeper meaning, as well as any potential holes or oversight on the candidate’s part.

So, let me know if you have not already, if you would like to be interviewed, or involved in this timely, rurally based B.C. project. For those who have reached out already, thank you and expect to hear from me shortly.

Thank you for your support!! 🙏🏽

Kootenay Cannabis Symposium Debrief

What. A. Day.

Congratulations to the Kootenay United Cannabis Association, and their Board of Directors, led by Damon Chouinard, for hosting such an incredible ground breaking event.

The event, hosted in Nelson on April 11th, 2019, brought over 200 people from all levels of government (federal, provincial and local) as well as community supporting organizations (Community Futures Central Kootenays), NGOs (Kootenay United Cannabis Association – the hosts, BC Micro License Association, Association of Canadian Cannabis Retailers), educational institutions (Selkirk College’s Community Education and Workplace training), and, very importantly, people from all over industry.

Speakers shared federal and provincial regulations, concerns for barriers, and suggestions for opportunities, while Nelson Councilor, Brittny Anderson, master of ceremonies, kept the day on track. Workshop round table sessions worked collaboratively to identify barriers, most notably related to federal legislation, and suggestions for solutions.

A copy of my presentation, outlining the theoretical foundations of transitioning economies and stakeholder participation as a framework for this PhD project, can be found here.

A summary of findings will be complied for public release in the upcoming weeks.

 (Left to Right) Brittny Anderson (Nelson City Councilor), Tracey Harvey (PhD Researcher), Ron LeBlanc (RDCK), Meeri Durand (RDCK), Richard Toperczer (BC gov’t), Abra Bryne (Food Policy Council), Damon Chouinard (KUCA), Gerri Brightwell (BC gov’t), and Andrea Wilkey (CFCK). Photo courtesy of BCCS

Read about the event in the local news: Facing high regulatory barriers, Kootenay cannabis producers gather for support

April 11th Cannabis Symposium, Nelson

Thursday April 11th brings an important Cannabis Symposium held in Nelson at the Prestige resort, hosted by the grassroots organization, Kootenay United Cannabis Association (KUCA), in cooperation with the RDCK.

If you are a stakeholder of cannabis legalization, you need to be there. Policy influencers, industry professionals, elected officials, and academics will discuss challenges and opportunities legalization brings to the region. This will be a chance to voice your concerns and share your ideas.

Register for the event online at event brite. Tickets are only $25 and they include lunch, dinner and an after event. Read more about it on the KUCA website.

See you there!

Stuck in the black market

Are people moving from the grey and black markets to the white market? Some are and many want to, but most can’t. The March 7th 2019 article by Jon Boivin in the Trail Times captures not only challenges of transitioning, but also how polarizing cannabis legalization is here in the Kootenay region. I think this type of argument is what partially contributed to the inequitable policy that accompanies Bill C-45.

While all of these gentlemen disclose truths, I certainly empathize with the small entrepreneur who wants to transition, but logistically the odds are stacked against them, and they feel like they can’t.

British Columbia is particularly unique because of a historic cannabis industry and policy should address that.


January 2019 project update

Yesterday marks 3 months since legalization, and I’m curious what has changed for you?

Not much appears differently since before legalization, from my own view.

But looking inside the local cannabis industry that’s not the case at all. Things are moving rapidly, which may or may not be a good thing. Uncertain would best describe the local climate. Along with a sense of vulnerability, fear and I don’t like saying it but desperation.

People aren’t sure what to do. What they know is they are facing a challenging and expensive transition and things can’t continue like they did in the past. Based on the literature, effective transitioning economies involve inclusive stakeholder-based regional collaboration for the purposes of economic diversification. Consequently successful transitional strategies and inclusive stakeholder participation is what forms the basis of my research. I think I presented that too quickly but I can elaborate next time.

And that’s where this project is at. I have submitted a draft qualifying examination paper discussing these theoretical foundations and I continue to informally speak with several industry ‘informants’ on a fairly-regular basis. I’ve also organized a panel discussion with a local mayor, a compliance expert, a local cannabis cultivator expert and myself, around rurally based small business development in the cannabis sector at the upcoming AKBLG convention in Castlegar this April.

While I’m not yet engaging in formal interviews, I’m interested in hearing from you if you have input, so please drop me a line if you have something to say.

In the news – transitioning to the legalized regime

I wanted to share some recent media about this project, for your interest.

I was interviewed by John Boivin from the Castlegar News on September 7th, 2018, which is captured in a piece called Pot legalization will force big adjustments to Kootenay economy, society, also shared in the Arrow Lakes news, Rossland news and via the Rural Development Institute at Selkirk College.

And while it is early in my project to share this research, it is indeed timely and seems to be of interest to folks.  And the Rural Policy Learning  Commons invited me to host a webinar on September 27th that will be shared via the Rural Policy Learning Commons network, where I will share my project and some preliminary findings to date, and discuss some emerging policy challenges.

You can register for the webinar here and also download a copy of the poster.

Inherent subjectivity

Because I live here in the Kootenays and continuously interact with residents, businesses, and communities who are being impacted by legalization, it is difficult, or impossible to remove myself, as the researcher, from the research. I am therefore both influenced by and influence the research. I therefore hold inherent subjectivity. I believe truth is relative and that it can change, depending on the context.

As an example, depending on which group I speak with, I learn different truths about the cannabis industry and how (they feel) it influences the local society and economy. While these truths may differ between institutions, they are very real to the group holding them. During early informal conversations, some prohibition era participants told me they have no interaction with organized crime in our rural area (i.e., it is not part of their business). While other people have pointed out organized crime has to exist in the illicit drug supply chain, except in some instances such as when a farmer supplies a consumer directly. Since the majority (somewhere around 80%) of the cannabis produced in the Kootenay region leaves the area, there is high probability organized crime is part of the supply chain at some point. I hear two truths: one that is generalizable to a larger area, and one that is locally specific.

A social constructionist paradigm supports the concept of Thoughtexchange for qualitatively gathering local resident’s thoughts, in order to understand patterns, and commonalities around legalization. I used a content analysis approach and created two summary (over arching) themes; Challenges and Opportunities. Within these broad categories, I identified and created new themes as they evolved, and coded subsequent thoughts accordingly. I sometimes changed the coding of a previous thought when more applicable themes surfaced. I reviewed all 251 thoughts five times (!), although admittedly, I grappled with several thoughts many more times trying to make the best categorization.


An update on thought processing

Cannabis legalization, and the anticipated challenges and opportunities to rural B.C. areas, is a polarizing topic.  Although that’s no surprise.

Themeing and processing thoughts from the Thoughtexchange confirms the legalization of recreational cannabis, as well as citizen interest in supporting the transition of a mature illicit sub-economy, is bifurcated.  One group very much supports legalization, and wants to see local cannabis participants successfully enter into the legalized regime, while another group generally does not support the policy change and has greater concern for the well-being of society in face of the 95-year outlawed Schedule 1 drug coming into normalized use.  Rather than helping people who evaded the law for decades, the latter group wishes to focus on other priorities of legalization such as youth protection and overall safety.

From the 202 people who participated, 254 thoughts were shared and 4145 ratings were scored in the 3 week + long exchange.

While the two groups and their opinions do not diverge on all topics, their general opposing views are equally important to consider, as they paint a picture of current reality in many rural areas in B.C.

More updates on the results of the exchange coming shortly.

Processed Cannabis
Accessed from Pixabay and freely Licensed under Creative Commons CCO