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BC government releases plan for recreational marijuana

Last Updated Dec 5, 2017 at 7:29 pm PDT

(iStock Photo)

Legal age for smoking recreational marijuana in BC will be 19 to coincide with rules for alcohol, tobacco

Pot will be sold in both private businesses and government-run stores in BC

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The BC government has released its plan for recreational marijuana following a public consultation process with more than 48,000 responses.

It will set the legal smoking age at 19 to coincide with the minimum age for alcohol and tobacco, as well as the age of majority in BC. Pot will be sold in both private businesses and in government run stores.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says the BC Liquor Distribution Branch will be responsible for managing sales. He says private and government-run retailers will be allowed to sell pot, but the details won’t be released until early in the New Year.

“The retail model is something that is going to be unveiled towards the end of January –beginning of February.”

He says the BC government’s goals are to protect young people, making health and safety a priority, keep criminals out of the industry and to maintain road safety.

Stephanie Smith is the president of the BCGEU, which represents workers at all government-run liquor stores. She’s waiting to see the final list of retailers.

“At this point, we don’t really know the details on that and like everybody else, we’ll be waiting for the announcement in the spring to see what that looks like.”

Smith says selling pot in unionized BC Liquor stores is the best option, and she feels it’s promising that the Liquor Distribution Branch will be in charge of distribution.

“This speaks to the proposal that we put together with the private liquor stores and presented to both the former government and this current government. We think it makes good financial sense but, most importantly, we think it makes sense for public safety and the socially responsible sale of recreational cannabis for adult use.”

“I think that… the Liquor Distribution Branch’s wholesale distribution will allow for quality control — again, ensuring public safety. It is a secure system. We already distribute a controlled substance — that is, alcohol — so it makes perfect sense for recreational cannabis to be distributed in this similar way,” adds Smith.

Vancouver City Councillor Kerry Jang doesn’t think it’s a good idea to see pot in the same place as liquor is sold. “It increases the risk for using [the two substances] at the same time, and all the other things that come with it. We know from other jurisdictions around the world, it’s not sold with liquor. It’s sold separately. So, people have to generally make a choice: Am I going to use pot tonight or am I going to have a drink?”

“Greater and easy accessibility also increases addiction rates, no matter what the substance is — whether it’s alcohol, cannabis or what have you. So to have them in separate shops is a wise model.”

He’s pleased with the province’s announcement today. “We think that’s a good first step on this. I know there’s still more work and more decisions to be made.”

Jang says that doesn’t necessarily mean dispensaries that are already up and running in Vancouver will be shut down.

“Certainly, the model that we’ve discussed was that the province would have to license these dispensaries. They would be licensed like a private liquor store, for example, where you need both city and provincial agreement on it. They would have to meet all the requirements of the province and the city to stay open. Otherwise — if they don’t meet those basic requirements — they would be closed,” he says.

He says that helps the city, when it comes to dealing with red tape.

“It actually is a great help. Currently, the City of Vancouver… is trying to do all this on its own without provincial backing. But with the announcement today, we see that the province will be taking a real hands-on approach and taking over a lot of the functions that cities have been trying to struggle with. It will mean that the enforcement will be much quicker [and] better. There’ll be proper licensing and inspections.”

Almost 50,000 B.C. residents and 141 local and Indigenous governments made submissions to a consultation process ahead of the federal government’s legalization of non-medical cannabis in July 2018.