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Private retailers will be allowed to sell recreational marijuana in BC

British Columbia announces that sales of recreational marijuana will be done through private retail stores, with the minimum age set at 19. The Liquor Distribution Branch is to oversee the wholesale.

Residents of British Columbia just hit the recreational marijuana jackpot since the province opted-in for a very liberal regulatory framework.

On Tuesday morning Solicitor General Mike Farnworth announced what the future of British Columbia’s cannabis industry will look like.

Farnworth said that decisions announced on Tuesday were strongly oriented towards the input of 48,000 BC residents and 141 local governments received by the provincial officials over the course of several months.

One of the most interesting notes of the input was that most people were opposed to selling recreational marijuana in liquor stores.

The majority of those that shared their thoughts were in favor of existing private marijuana dispensaries.

Among other significant decisions, Solicitor General Mike Farnworth announced:

  • The minimum age for purchasing recreational marijuana in BC will be 19 years;
  • The provincial Liquor Distribution Branch will oversee wholesale of pot;
  • Pricing has not yet been determined and the 2018 budget would not anticipate any revenue from cannabis.

BC to lead the recreational marijuana industry

British Columbia already has the tradition of cannabis engraved in its culture for decades. It is only fitting that this tradition proceeds in the age of legal recreational marijuana.

“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done legislatively,” said Farnworth. “I expect a great deal of the legislative calendar to be taken up by the legalization of cannabis in the spring.

The federal government is going to be in charge of quality control and product testing while the provinces and territories will be in charge of sales, distribution and law enforcement.

The city Vancouver seems to be a step ahead of the provincial government as it has already licensed a couple marijuana dispensaries. Vancouver Coun. Kerry Jang welcomed the government’s announcement Tuesday.

Counselor Jang pointed towards a system implemented in his city which heavily relies on private marijuana stores — which are considered the same as liquor stores.

In this system, the province is in charge of licensing and inspection, and the city is responsible for providing a business license to marijuana retailers, which pay up to $30,000 a year for a license.

“If they (BC government) adopt that model, which is what we are urging, they do the enforcement and municipalities won’t have a huge cost on this file, aside from routine administration and business licences,” said Jang.

More information about the pot plan is to be announced in late January or beginning of February, mostly detailing the plan for retail sales.

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said there would be significant up-front costs and that the 2018 budget does not see any revenue made from cannabis sales.

The Unions are on board

Stephanie Smith, president of the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union, which represents Liquor Distribution Board employees, supported the provincial government’s decision to allow union members to handle distribution due to their experience with alcohol.

“It’s already a very and secure and efficient distribution system,” she said. “We believe it’s a fiscally responsible choice rather than setting up a very costly parallel system.”

Barinder Rasode, CEO for the National Institute for Cannabis Health and Education, said she is “encouraged” by the government’s plan and added that the real work starts now.

Advocates don’t want LDB

Recreational marijuana advocates believe that the LDB was put in play without a real need for it. Legalization advocate Dana Larsen of Sensible BC said he was “not too happy”.

“I think it’s going to add a layer of bureaucracy and cost for not much benefit. Cannabis is already regulated by Health Canada federally so the province doesn’t need to be looking into the quality or anything like that. I don’t see why producers can’t just sell directly to retailers or the customer.”

Kirk Tousaw, a lawyer specializing in cannabis cases, said BC should transition its illegal dispensaries (around 300) which are currently operating in the province to legal operations.

“There’s not much in negatives being caused by these establishments,” he said. “There’s a tremendous amount of talent in B.C. and we need to harness that and we need to acknowledge that they are pioneers, not criminals.”

Tousaw also supported the province in advocating for small-scale craft production which could turn into a very successful marijuana tourism industry.

Given that BC still has a lot of intricacies to iron out, we can expect to hear more in the near future.

“I have no doubt there will be revenue in the middle- to long-term, but initially our focus is going to be on education, enforcement, and on ensuring the necessary infrastructure for the legalization of cannabis to proceed smoothly in B.C. is the priority,” said Farnworth.

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