BC Premier John Horgan says the province will be ready for legalization by next July—the federal government’s goal of implementing the legal regime.
In an interview today on the Jon McComb show on CFAX, Horgan said the province will not be seeking a delay for legalization and will be soon beginning public discussions to deal with uncertainties and fears around legalization to ensure the province brings in a plan that ‘works for everybody.’
Horgan also said the province is looking at all different distribution models from the existing liquor store system in BC, similar to Ontario’s announcement last week of an LCBO-run retail system, as well as existing dispensaries and pharmacies for medical cannabis. The main concerns is adhering to the federal government's goals of moving away from the black market.
“The dispensaries have been proven to be an effective way of attracting attention. There’s also pharmacies for those focusing explicitly on medicinal marijuana. I think there’s a range of options and we’re going to look at all of them. My sense at the start of this discussions is that any of those individually or together is going to be an appropriate response for as to where the public wants to go with this. But the time has long passed waiting; we need to make sure we’re squishing out the black market. And that means not setting the price point too high.”
"You've heard people say this is a great windfall of tax revenue. This has not been the case in Washington and Oregon. If you set the price too high, then the black market will continue to exist."
While he says he hopes to cater to entrepreneurs, Horgan also points to dispensary proliferation in Victoria and Vancouver as a problem, noting that the ‘market’ may sort that issue out, and that whatever system BC chooses will be in line with the federal government’s goals of tightly controlling and restricting access.
“We want to make sure that a distribution system is in place that benefits those who want to participate as entrepreneurs, but we need to regulated it and we’re going to do that in a variety of ways, starting with talking to people about how they want to proceed. And that means again, working with local councils. The City of Vancouver, City of Victoria, two that I know well, there’s been just an explosion of private dispensaries on almost every street corner in some cases. That’s not going to work. The market will figure some of that stuff out. But we want to make sure there's a regime in place that protects the public and also is compliant with where the federal government wants to go.”
Although Horgan made no specific mention of when any official announcement for the province will come out, it’s been expected this month, especially with the British Columbia Municipal Union annual meeting in Vancouver next week planning to discuss legalization.
“BC is a mature jurisdiction," said Horgan, "I like to say, when it comes to marijuana. As everyone knows, there’s a lot of Marijuana in British Columbia, has been for a long time. We have our neighbours to the north and the south, Alaska and Washington, already legal, I think we can get on this as quickly as possible. I fully intend to meet the July first deadline. But there's a lot of people to talk to. There's fear and uncertainty and some anxiety in communities and we want to make sure we ease that and bring in a plan that works for everybody."