Pot

Kelowna city councillors on Tuesday set aside the municipality's own rule requiring pot shops to be at least 500 metres apart as they approved a Pandosy Street cannabis store.

With a marijuana breathalyzer, 290 more acres for cannabis growing, an Indigenous cannabis and hemp conference and a pot store in Sicamous, the Okanagan is further solidifying its position as a legal marijuana hot spot.

Back in 2016, UBC Okanagan engineering professor Mina Hoorfar developed a hand-held marijuana breathalyzer.

That THC Breath Analyzer has been refined into a hand-held portable unit in conjunction with Vancouver-based publicly traded Cannabix Technologies.

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the pyschoactive ingredient in cannabis that makes people high.

Cannabix conducted human tests earlier this year in Kelowna to test the functionality and effectiveness of the THC Breath Analyzer.

“Our mutual goal continues to be developing an afordable, portable, fast and accurate device for use with a range of potential users,” said Hoorfar.

Cannabix hopes to have a model that can be sold to police and workplaces in the near future.

In the meantime, there’s more testing to be done and pilot projects with police and workplaces.

The breathalyzer can detect the THC that remains on people’s breath 12 hours after smoking or consuming cannabis products.

Also, THC stays in the blood and saliva.

Until now, roadside testing that requires saliva or blood was complicated and results were not immediate. The same is true with urine tests in workplaces.

The THC Breath Analyzer is equipped with upgraded software and and uses cloud computing to deliver results in seconds.

If the breathalyzer costs about $15 to manufacture, the retail price could be low enough that pot users may buy their own unit for self-tasting and self-monitoring.

On Friday, the little North Okanagan town of Sicamous saw its first pot store opening with Sicamous Trading Company starting business.

Utilizing a bit of word play, the store opened at ‘high’ noon.

The third annual National Indigenous Cannabis and Hemp Conference is set for Tuesday through Thursday next week at Kelowna’s Delta Grand hotel.

“The first two conferences (Calgary in 2018 and Ottawa in February) concentrated on jurisdiction, cannabis education and the cannabis and hemp industries in broad strokes,” said David Evans, one of the organizers.

“At this event, we are definitely drilling deeper and offering the delegates more solid information on developing their own businesses, setting band policy and health and harm reduction.”

Registration is open at NICHC.ca.

The Geen family of Kelowna have traditionally been orchardists. But brothers Marc and Pat Geen, sons of former Sun-Rype Products chairman and apple grower Merv Geen, have turned to outdoor cannabis growing.

Their new company, SpeakEasy Cannabis Club, is located on 290 acres in what they call the Okanagan Golden Mile near Rock Creek.

SpeakEasy recently received a Health Canada licence for cultivation, processing and medical sales.

Cannabis growing has already begun in a 10,000-square-foot indoor facility.

A 60-acre former orchard has been cleared and, if licencing is secured, it will be the starting point for outdoor cultivation in spring 2020.

Sixty acres could produce up to 70,000 kilograms of cannabis flower annually.

SpeakEasy hopes to to double that with more outdoor approvals.

The on-site, 80,000-square-foot SpeakEasy campus will turn the cannabis flower into value-added products.

Another 26,600-square-foot building will be finished soon to process the outdoor-grown pot.

SpeakEasy sees itself as a incubator for independent farmers to grow the cannabis they want and use company’s expertise and facilities to bring product to market.

The burgeoning Okanagan cannabis sector already includes pot growers Flowr, Doja and THC BioMed, cannabis oil extraction companies Everest BioPharma, MediPharm Labs and Valens GroWorks, equipment manufacturer Vitalis Extraction Technology and True Leaf, which uses the CBD (non-high) portion of the plant to make supplements, treats and oils for dogs and cats to boost immunity, ease hip and joint pain and reduce anxiety.