Jim Hole, high-profile Alberta horticulturalist, does his bit to make cannabis cultivation respectable in Canada

Posted on November 30, 2017, 1:30 am
8 mins

PHOTOS: Hole’s Greenhouses co-owner Jim Hole at yesterday’s news conference at his store in St. Albert. Below: Atlas Growers President and CEO Sheldon Croome. Below him: Mr. Hole tests the light in his pot-growing enclosure for a group of mildly bemused reporters. As readers can see, the unit can also be used to grow azaleas.

ST. ALBERT, Alberta

O Cannabis!

Even a couple of city councillors showed up yesterday morning for horticulturist Jim Hole’s news conference at Hole’s Greenhouses and Gardens here in the Botanic City, as the Edmonton-area bedroom suburb of St. Albert styles itself. You can’t get much more respectable than that, now, can you?

The newser didn’t actually seem to be about much that we hadn’t already been told, though.

Mr. Hole, co-owner of the family greenhouse business but no longer of the Enjoy Centre that houses it, answered a few questions from reporters and showed off a home pot-growing set-up he’ll soon be selling. Disappointingly, the tent-like structure housed only a couple of azaleas, pot not being quite legal yet hereabouts, despite the third reading given Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, in the House of Commons Tuesday.

Mr. Hole will be director of cultivation for Edmonton-based Atlas Growers Ltd., the privately held corporation that is building a large legal medical and recreational marijuana growing facility in nearby Lac Ste. Anne County. The company says it expects to harvest its first crop of legal recreational marijuana in the second half of next year.

Mr. Hole did most of the talking yesterday, but Atlas President and CEO Sheldon Croome stepped up to the microphone to promise to “redefine production standards within the cannabis industry.”

Hiring Mr. Hole, he said in a news release, was “a major step forward in our efforts to legitimize and standardize the Canadian cannabis market.” Fair enough, hiring a professional horticulturalist and media figure with deep roots in Alberta as the public face of a pot-growing company does send a message of respectability about an industry that is still highly controversial.

A horticulture expert regularly heard on the CBC certainly comes across as more decorous than hiring a former police chief or justice minister who used to send pot users to jail, as some folks in the marijuana industry have recently done. If you ask me, using former cops to market pot is the definition of bad optics.

Mr. Hole of course, is the son of the late Lois Hole, founder of the greenhouse business, gardening guru, author and beloved lieutenant governor of Alberta. Asked by a reporter if his mother would have approved, Mr. Hole responded: “Mom would be happy. She loved helping people.”

I don’t think Mr. Hole was entirely blowing smoke. I have no doubt Mrs. Hole would be happy. She was, after all, a shrewd and tough-minded businesswoman, and legal marijuana looks to soon be a multi-billion-dollar horticultural business in Canada, which is getting into it as an entire country before anyone else in the industrialized world.

As for the real or imagined therapeutic benefits of the hardy weed that Mr. Hole seemed to be referring to, I’ll leave that to the medical experts.

But the new cannabis era that Canada is entering at a dizzying pace under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Government is having a faintly disorienting effect on a lot of us – even if we were part of that tiny group of Canadians who never thought marijuana should be outlawed.

By that I don’t mean the pungent smell of the burning herb now common every lunch hour on the streets of downtown Edmonton, even though formal legalization isn’t expected to take place until Cannabis Day, I mean Canada Day, next summer.

No, I have in mind the entirely legitimate concern of many Canadians we’re not moving to legalization and full marketization of this drug quite the right way.

Overnight, a substance that could net a seller or even a user a long prison sentence, is turning into a full-blown legal recreational product pushed by major corporations with virtually no controls on how they advertise or sell the stuff other than an age limit for buyers.

Seriously, should we really be letting large private corporations market marijuana like Big Tobacco through corner-store outlets with near-zero accountability? What could possibly go wrong?

Handing the marketing and profits to the private sector as the Alberta NDP plan to do while socializing the risks seems like going about this in a bass-ackwards way.

Of course, not everyone who worries about legal marijuana is worried about the same stuff.

Take Ron Orr, for example, the United Conservative Party’s culture and tourism critic, who thinks legalizing marijuana will spark a communist revolution in Canada.

The MLA for Lacombe-Ponoka told the Alberta Legislature yesterday that the “human tragedy of what’s going to happen with this is yet to be revealed,” which might just be true, and that “nobody’s taken a moment to think about it,” which almost certainly is.

He went on, however, to argue there are historical parallels between Canada’s imminent Horticultural Revolution and China’s Cultural Revolution under the communists.

Mr. Orr told the House he believes use of opium in China contributed to the rise of communism there, so the use of pot in Canada could obviously lead to a communist revolution in Canada.

This suggests the former Wildroser doesn’t really have a strong handle on either history or cause and effect. Still, if you apply a little good old 19th Century Marxist analysis, you might come up with an argument he’s right just the same.

After all, opium in China was pushed by the British as part of their imperial project, and the eventual reaction to imperialism in China was communism. Still, something tells me this isn’t what Mr. Orr had in mind.

Give him a little time. He’s the tourism critic, after all. With marketing advice from folks like Mr. Hole, the UCP will soon be demanding the government support Bud & Breakfast bus tours through the high Rockies of Alberta.

9 Comments to: Jim Hole, high-profile Alberta horticulturalist, does his bit to make cannabis cultivation respectable in Canada

  1. Bob Raynard

    November 30th, 2017

    Better be a big brekfast.

  2. Bob Raynard

    November 30th, 2017

    If Mr. Orr is so concerned about substance abuse, I wonder what his thoughts would be on raising the drinking age, to protect our vulnerable youth. (The drinking age is 19 in all of Canada except Quebec, Manitoba and here) Him being tourism minister would be a real conflicting issue.

  3. David

    November 30th, 2017

    Good for Mr. Hole. This makes total sense, finally someone with horticultural expertise and facilities getting into this business. It is also nice that it is a local business rather than some anonymous possibly distant corporate entity that might not have as much regard for Alberta. It is becoming quite an interesting industry with, respectable people like Mr. Hole, former politicians and police chiefs getting into the business.

  4. Ron

    November 30th, 2017

    It seems that the current legislation is meant to entrench the folks that Harper set up under his dubious MM changes that are still in litigation: big companies, who can afford the ridiculous security systems and have marketing and lobbying muscle with ex-police prohibitionists as mascots. The craft growers (who sustained “us” all these years) should be nurtured and marketing should be limited to access and quality issues.

    And you can do better than this:
    .”As for the real or imagined therapeutic benefits of the hardy weed that Mr. Hole seemed to be referring to, I’ll leave that to the medical experts.”

    1) “real or imagined” OK, back in 1996 when California lead the world on this, this was a standard reaction (of most of us). Two decades later an astute observer like your self should cease using loaded descriptions like that.
    “proven and yet to be proven” would be best but “proven and disputed” would pass muster in this case.

    2) ” I’ll leave that to the medical experts.” Most medical experts have had their head in the sand (or in less polite locations 😉 ).
    How many medical schools have any cannabis education? Most couldn’t spell “endocannabinoid” let alone explain the endocannabinoid system we all have in our bodies and the significant role it plays in our health.
    Next time try leaving it to the “cannabis medical experts”.

  5. November 30th, 2017

    Why would it not be respectable? It is legal and it is considered to be a medicine.

    My understanding is that the former Chief of Police of one large Canadian city and one former Ontario Provincial Police Chief are very much involved in the industry.

    The latter being an incredible hypocrite given that as a Cabinet Minister in the Harper Government he railed against and denounced it at every opportunity. As they say ‘money talks’.

  6. December 1st, 2017

    On balance, there is no down side to legal marijuana. There is a down side or three to the less than fully libertarian way our country is ending marijuana Prohibition which, I believe, will be evident soon enough. To me the way the province of Alberta is rolling out the newly legal product makes perfect sense given Alberta’s history. Here in BC I would be surprised if we do not roll out our distribution of marijuana in both government and private stores given our largely successful (and popular) history of doing just that with liquor in recent decades. In any case, as an old logger told me 40 years ago, “A little grass never hurt anybody.”

  7. Scotty on Denman

    December 1st, 2017

    One would almost need to be stoned to concoct a word like “globalizationalism”, but it’s a needed term; the drug, of course, is profit. The phenomenon is a reactive amalgam of strategy, technology, and capitalism, its consumptive jets of firey smoke spinning the triad so fast the ingredients fuse in a blur like racing tigers turning into butter. Profiteers are at the controls of this steampunk contraption, oh yes, but they practice a pseudo-capitalism akin to mercantilism, more to their liking , and they know it. They want monopoly, not competition which is supposed to be the cornerstone of capitalist theory. Their megalomaniacal euphoriating is the rush of eliminating, not contending with, the competitors. But you’ll never see them stoned on the corner: they’re comfortably ensconced in the penthouse suite, a “Do Not Disturb (My Junkie Delusion)” sign dangling from the doorknob.

    Pseudo-competition is not about making production more efficient so’s to undercut competitors on price, such as indoor pot grows did to maryjane middlemen (by doing so marginally, the mom&pop growops realized handsome profits which actually did “trickle down” to pay for groceries, mortgages and tuitions like Reganomics never did in its pseudo-capitalist world). Instead of innovating processes, globalization allows for “competition” by way of moving operations to low-wage countries — which is how Mexico, Jamaica, and India became the chief suppliers of the ganga after DuPont eliminated its greatest competitor in the paper-making business it aimed to monopolize: hemp, once the largest cash crop in North America which, with the swipe of a friendly president’s pen, was recast as the maddening reefer, the gateway bogeyman of mass propaganda. Nobody was so stoned on bunk to actually believe that, but those who were catching a massive profit-buzz from this favourable interference of supposed free enterprise believed it was believable to most people, gulled, at the time, by the novelty of mass media.

    Much is illusion; incredible histories are so often discredited it’s a mug’s game drawing conclusions from them: sometimes it’s hard to know who’s been zooming whom. The tribal settlers of Rome’s abandoned province of Britannia needed assurances of their warrior leaders’ magical descent from Odin, so the Roman Christian churches were sacked and destroyed. By the time the unsustainable pillaging economy had inevitably impoverished the descendants of these settlers, and their allods were forfeited for a life of serfdom under the protection of the strongest of regional lords, these kinglets just as magically had their pedigrees revised by Catholic monks from the Continent, commissioned to affect a sort of ancestry.com of the day, arriving of course at the claimed ancestral Jesus.

    Such is today’s illusion: the claimed, divine-like right of profit, backed by the majesty of the state instead of the church, agrandized by benefices from crusading pseudo-capitalists returning from pillaging in far away, low-wage, no-regs lands. What this Geko tribe wants is the kind of mercantile control over the maryjane industry its feudal forelords had over their economically imprisoned feudatories: what is to be produced, who is allowed to produce it, where and how it is to be marketed, to whom and for what reason, and how the profits are to be divied up. For all the businesslike trappings, boards of directors, investors, underwriters, shareholders, packaging, marketing, and the like, there are a few things conspicuously missing: the freedom to innovate, and uniformity of law to be applied to legal pot’s regulation.

    It seems like the same kind of sweeping freeforall stateless corporations we see in the globalizationism phenomenon, with most of the monopolists’ dreams come true: a mercantile-like system that affects the same kind of stifling inertia of Dark Age manorial feudalism.

    We don’t have to snap out of 800 years of superstitious hypnosis of a corrupt Catholic Church anymore, but we do have to watch out for pseudo-capitalists: the gateway drug is profit, not pot.

    Not every pothead is happy about legalization. For one thing, decriminalization means provinces can stick their nose in there and practice all sorts of civil procedures — that is, based only on probability — that can be even more draconian and constitutionally questionable, like civil forfeiture and expensive 24-hour car impoundment when the driver has a blood-alcohol level below the criminal limit. When will the first reverse-onus tickets for cocked-up infractions start being dished out? Will it be like the odious padlock bylaws that about a dozen Lower Mailand municipalities inflicted upon residents for the most spurious of probabilities of illegal growing — a bag of tomatoe fertilizer, a hole in the drywall at the bottom of the basement stair landing, a stack of plastic flower pots on the back porch — for which $5000 dollar “inspection fees” were required to remove the padlock? (A class-action suit quickly ended that obviously corruptible scam.) At least criminal law requires that reasonable doubt must acquit. Not so civil law.

    The Opium War period in mid-19th century China is not at all comparable. That drug was forced upon the country along with much more substantive Euro-Imperial demands. It was the beginning of the end of British mercantilism, but it was extremely profitable while it lasted — not just the opium which came from a low-wage nation (India) — so profitable the East India Company was floated by capital from the Royal Treasury, and the huge issue was quickly retired, while American profiteers built luxurious Connecticut mansions from their cut of the action. Chinese officials of every rank profited in the middle, even though opium was officially banned — which indicated the moribundity of an extremely conservative C’hing dynasty, a process that started a century before British opium ever came around. It was the gunboat diplomacy of several European maritime superpowers (and the “dwarf pirates” of Japan who had long raided the Chinese coast) that paralysed the non-Chinese dynasty, the longest in Chinese history, allowing ethnic Chinese to refactionalize, a process that had, again, begun before the Opium Wars, with the Catholic Orders affecting the role of agents provocateurs. The country was helplessly besieged on the eve of the Sino-Japanese War, not by opium, but by European naval gunboats that had imposed free trading (a misnomer if there ever was one) ports, some far upstream of major rivers all along China’s coastline. Soon Japan would be the first Asia country in modern history to defeat a European fleet, but not before it had been infuriated by China’s permission given to Imperial Russia to build a railway through the Manchuria shortcut to the Pacific. The oldest surviving civilization in the world was surrounded and ready to collapse under the weight of a technologically superior world. Then came the Civil War, then Russian Revolution and the Allied Intervention (which included Japan, the USA, Italy, Serbia, Czechoslovakia, Britain, and Canada) which essentially invaded China via Russia’s railway lease. This was three decades before the Communist Revolution, which was itself eight decades after the Opium Wars. China had been at war — all within China — for all that while, including the brutal Imperial Japanese invasion of WW II, all of which is what, IMHO, led to Communism. The gateway was Euro-mercantile profiteering, opium being a catylist, perhaps, symbolic title, maybe, but nothing more.

    The Canadian marijuana industry, in contrast, was all homegrown, if I may be excused for the pun.

    The Americans have led the way on legalization, even though Canada will be the first to legalize pot federally throughout the country (pot is still illegal in US federal law, even though it is “legal” in a number of states). Even though liberalization — by way of compassion for sick people, the way the courts have seen it — has been a big factor, the legalization in Washington state has done much to kick the stilts out from the independent growshow industry, prices falling to about a third, or even a quarter, of those during its salad days about twenty years ago. And still, the mom&pop shows can profitably undercut anything the government has come up with so far. The way the wouldbe legal suppliers and provincial licensors are talking, it doesn’t sound as if they can match or beat that — they’re all rubbing their hands together with expectant glee as if they won’t have to compete — meaning the mom&pops aren’t done yet.

    The monopolist sentiment that started marijuana prohibition in the 30s (for ulterior reason), and the stiff, mercantile-like expectation of the circling profiteers remind of a fundamental truth: it is pointless, as the courts and police have long recognized, to prohibit something that a schoolboy can buy anywhere, anytime. That’s a concern, for sure, but the angst about kids — under 25 (!) — getting hold of legal pot is obviously rhetorically overwrought.

    The developing brain thing? Well, I first smoked weed when I was barely a teenager over half a century ago, and I’m totally norbal. I still eat the odd cookie — helps me get to sleep. Good night.

  8. Simon Renouf

    December 1st, 2017

    Mr. Orr’s history is totally zany. This is what appears in Hansard:

    “It wasn’t until the 1950s that China began to seriously eradicate
    the opium trade, the opium business, the opium tax revenue, and all
    of these wonderful things that are supposed to be generated from
    recreational use of drugs. They actually got so serious about it, their
    whole society was so broken down and debilitated by it, that it
    contributed to the Chinese Cultural Revolution under the
    Communists, with the execution of thousands of people. Dealers
    were executed. Fields were plowed under and planted with real
    food. I, for one, am not really willing to go down this road.”

    In addition to ignoring the role of imperial powers in establishing China’s opium trade Mr. Orr’s chronology is way off. Certainly the communists under Mao were largely successful in suppressing the remnants of the opium trade, and sending it to the “golden triangle”, but that was in the 40’s and 50’s, decades before the cultural revolution, generally seen as 1966-76. Society was broken down and debilitated prior to the communist revolution, but that was a result of years of war and brutal Japanese occupation.


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