What will legalization mean for BC’s dispensaries?

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Courtesy of Lift Magazine

While some communities in British Columbia like Vancouver and Victoria have been undergoing the process of regulating and licensing dispensaries, those regulations have still been in contravention of existing federal law. The question of what happens to both those regulations and those dispensaries after the federal and provincial government in BC announce their plans is one both Vancouver and Victoria aren’t entirely sure how to answer.

Acting Mayor for Victoria, Marianne Alto, says she thinks it will be possible for the province to set out regulations that allow for dispensaries in her city to become legal, but emphasizes how complicated the process could be.

“If all the province and feds do is say ‘this previously illegal substance is now legal,’ that’s it, then it would seem to me that those dispensaries that have met the test set out by the province would simply continue to exist under a different title.”

“The question would be whether or not the federal government imposes new aspects of any regulations or new tests, which we don’t know, obviously, and I’m not sure they do either at this point, frankly.”

When pressed for details at Monday’s press conference announcing the province’s new public and municipal consultation process, Minister Farnworth didn’t give any specifics as to what the province plans to do yet, but seemed open to a ‘mixed model’ that allows dispensaries in some parts of the province while other communities may ban them entirely.

“We have not yet landed on any decisions around the retail model that will be in place, because I’ve made it clear, there’s different opinions in different parts of the province. Vancouver has taken one approach, Victoria has taken another approach, but what works in Vancouver may not work in Port Coquitlam or may not work in Prince George or Campbell River or Fort Nelson or Cranbrook. We are open to putting in place a regime that works for the different parts of this province.”

Kerry Jang, Vancouver city councillor and the city’s lead on their medical marijuana related use licensing regime (MMRU), says Vancouver’s program works for the city and feels it should be possible to make those businesses legal within federal and provincial regulations.

“I think it’s very clear that Vancouver has a distribution model that fits in historically with what we’ve always done as part of our culture,” says Jang. “And, quite frankly, we have a lot of people who are medical marijuana users who know their guy, right? And I’m not going to say you can’t do that. It’s not in my business.”

“So for Vancouver, we do have a medical marijuana distribution system, if you like, and we’ll probably continue with something along those lines. We’ll probably have to harmonize a few things like age, where the supply comes from. Probably inspections will change, I guess, making sure the supply is coming from one of the legal sources, but those are things that will happen with the fullness of time.”

Farnworth echoed sentiments on the


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