BC's Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General to make announcement Monday on legalization

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Courtesy of Lift Magazine

The BC Government says that Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth will be making an announcement to the media on the province’s ‘next steps’ in their response to cannabis legalization on Monday, Sept 25.

The announcement will take place at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel during the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) annual meeting taking place this year in Vancouver. No other details of the announcement have been released.

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The Union of BC Municipalities is scheduled to meet to discuss three resolutions in regard to legalization at their annual meeting taking place in Vancouver, Sept 25-29, focussing on issues like funding for local enforcement and how to handle regional concerns with retail stores and production sites, as well as public consumption and more. Two panels will be held, one on Legalized Cannabis in British Columbia and one on the Provincial Regulation of Non-Medical Cannabis.

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British Columbia is one of the last provinces to formally announce a consultation process or plan for legalization. Earlier in September the Ontario government announced their plans for an LCBO-run cannabis distribution and retail system, both online and in dozens of stores across the province. New Brunswick recently announced a similar province-run plan in coordination with at least two New Brunswick-based cannabis producers.

While BC has traditionally been the centre of Canada’s illicit cannabis industry, the province has been slow to come out with a plan on how they will manage distribution and retail sales as they relate to the federal government’s Cannabis Act. This was a precedent established by the previous government, and has gone across the three major parties in BC who have been reluctant to make cannabis a major issue up to this point. 

BC’s Premier John Horgan recently said he’s confident the province can be ready by July, 2018, and made reference to being open to a system that could include cannabis dispensaries in some areas like Victoria or Vancouver, although he didn’t give specifics. Unlike Ontario and New Brunswick, whose cannabis regulations both mimic their alcohol regulations, British Columbia allows a mixed retail system for alcohol that includes both province-run stores as well as private.

The B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) and the B.C. Private Liquor Store Association (BCPLSA) announced in 2015 that they support a system where cannabis is sold in both public B.C. Liquor Stores and private retail stores. The federal government’s task force on legalization recommends no co-location of alcohol and tobacco “wherever possible.” However, utilizing the existing infrastructure a province uses for alcohol with separate, free standing stores would not be considered co-location.

It’s unknown what direction BC will take, but managing the political reality of two major cities currently licensing dispensaries and the hundreds of other businesses spread across the province with the expectations of the public will be an interesting challenge.

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