Editorial: Clearing the legislative path to cannabis legalization

The B.C. government tabled legislation this week to pave the way for the legalization of recreational cannabis, expected sometime this summer. Many of the measures announced were widely anticipated: the age restriction is 19, wholesale sales will be managed by the Liquor Distribution Branch, retail will be through government-owned stand-alone stores (not through liquor stores) and private outlets, cannabis use will be prohibited where tobacco smoking and vaping are already banned, and new resources will be devoted to enforcement of regulations.

On that last point, the province plans to create a range of cannabis offences carrying fines of up to $100,000 and/or prison of up to 12 months. It is seeking a director for its cannabis enforcement unit, which will be responsible for enforcement action against unlicensed illegal dispensaries. The number and location of cannabis shops has been left to the discretion of municipalities but that doesn’t make matters any easier. The City of Vancouver is already in litigation with dispensaries that it had licensed that it now wants to shut down.  

Some regulations, such as a limit on home cultivation to four plants (which must not be visible), would seem unenforceable without a search warrant. And the issue of driving under the influence of cannabis is still unsettled since there is no reliable test for THC impairment.

Whether any of these legislative initiatives will be effective in driving the criminal element out of the marijuana business depends largely on price and supply. Some consumers may stick with what they know — the pusher down the street with comparable quality, competitive pricing and an engaging smile.  

 

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