Britney Guerra is a businessperson and cannabis activist who has seen the industry’s transition from prohibition to a legal and regulated industry that contributes to the Canadian economy. She began her career in Vancouver, working as an advertising manager for Cannabis Culture, an online magazine for the cannabis subculture. Today, she is the general manager of Brant Cannabis, a retail store in Brantford, ON, focused on selling quality products plus educating customers and the community on the drug’s many benefits.
Her journey to this space has seen its challenges. Guerra opened her first illegal dispensary in Burnaby, BC, in 2011 — which the local RCMP closed pretty quickly. She returned to her hometown of Hamilton, ON, where she opened several illegal dispensaries, including the Medicine Cabinet, which helped connect people to the drug for issues like pain management instead of resorting to opioids. However, along with notable cannabis advocates Marc and Jodie Emery, Guerra was arrested in 2017 by police in Project Gator and charged with conspiracy, among other offences. She pleaded guilty and was spared a prison sentence, instead given probation with strict conditions, which kept her out of the industry for a few years.
After a lengthy process, Guerra was able to return to the industry and has her license to manage a cannabis store. She has seen firsthand how Canada’s legalization of marijuana has changed the business, but thinks that there are several areas regulators need to change.
“I’m unhappy with the prohibitive measures on [certain products]… Like limitations on being able to purchase ounces, or edible limitations. I don’t think they should be selling 1,000-milligram chocolate bars, but it should not be capped at 10 milligrams. There’s a happy, common ground somewhere that we can find.”
Guerra sees a need for further activism in these areas but points out it is probably more manageable for the government to loosen restrictions on the industry rather than tighten them. However, she sees a future where innovative products and new strains will cause the industry to grow. “It’s a plant that continuously grows and changes and evolves, so we know we’re going to see a lot of great stuff,” said Guerra. “We just need the Government of Canada and Health Canada to let us grow with it.”
She has been invited to speak at the Lift&Co. Expo (May 12–15, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre), Canada’s largest cannabis conference and trade show.
“They do an amazing job at bringing companies together. They’re starting to reach out to activists that have helped bring this plant to where we are today, which I love to see because, for the first little bit during the corporate cannabis boom, it was a lot of corporate cannabis,” said Guerra. “It’s an open market now, and there are all types of people in cannabis. It’s not just government-run stores. Lift is doing a very good job at including the community and the corporations; cannabis was a community before it was a corporation.”
Guerra will use her speaking opportunity to educate people about cannabis activism and call out what’s wrong with the retail industry in Ontario. “Right now, the retail market is a rocky one. It takes knowledgeable people to succeed because we have [corporate] stores that are selling [products] below MSRP. They’re taking big losses on products to drown out all the mom-and-pop shops. Then they can raise their prices back up.”
In the future, she expects the rules and regulations surrounding cannabis to ease. Unlike alcohol, there are no reported deaths from marijuana overdose, and violence is incredibly rare. She points out Vancouver’s massive but unofficial 420 celebrations, which attract tens of thousands. There have been no reports of violence or arrests during the long-time event.
After a tumultuous few years, Guerra is very happy to be back in the cannabis industry and feels honoured to be speaking at the Lift Expo. She looks forward to meeting other activists and members of the community, and sharing ideas with her peers. It has been a long journey from her early days at Cannabis Culture to being the general manager of a legal retail store, but she sees a future where marijuana is as mainstream as having a glass of wine. And it may be here sooner than we think.