BC’s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Mike Farnworth, says the province won’t rule out co-location of the sale of cannabis with alcohol in order to meet Ottawa’s goal of July 2018.
In an interview on Shaw TV’s Voice of B.C., BC’s lead on the cannabis legalization ticket told host Vaughn Palmer that the province can’t rule out the co-location of cannabis and alcohol.
“We have to get this done by July of next year,” said the minister during the interview. “It is a very tight time frame. To rule out co-location, I don’t think we can do that at this point.”
“We have to get this done by July of next year. It is a very tight time frame. To rule out co-location, I don’t think we can do that at this point.” -BC’s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Mike Farnworth
The BC NDP have said they are open to both public and private retail stores selling cannabis, and have recently closed their public engagement process to get feedback from the public and stakeholders on what legalization should look like in the province. No results from the public consultation have been released yet, but the government has said they are open to working with municipalities who want to include existing cannabis dispensaries.
“Some communities may say yes ‘we want dispensaries’, others may say ‘we don’t want dispensaries’,” said Minister Farnworth earlier this year. “The key question from my perspective is that whatever retail model we have in place is a legal one, using legal product.”
“So it doesn't matter whether it’s dispensaries, whether it’s liquor stores, whether it’s private retail. However you want to define it, whatever model you want to put in place, what matters is it’s legal, selling legal product that people have confidence in, and we get the black market out of it.”
Liberal opposition leader Rich coleman has called on the BC government to ban any existing dispensary owners from operating in a future legal market.
Last month, BC announced a joint provincial-local government committee that will consider policies related to cannabis legalization and regulation in BC later this week.
No co-location of cannabis with alcohol ‘wherever possible’ was a recommendation from the federal government’s legalization task force, which released its report last December. When co-location cannot be avoided, said the report, “appropriate safeguards” must be put in place. However, these are only recommendations, and no specific limitation yet exists in any federal legislation that would prevent co-location.
“Given the wide use and availability of liquor stores, concerns were raised about product promotion and exposing a larger population to cannabis products should sales be co-located, as well as the impact on cannabis consumers who are trying to avoid alcohol. Many also noted that this approach could help mitigate co-use, given what we heard about the risks of co-use on health and, with alcohol, the exponential effect on impairment. In all of the U.S. states that have legalized cannabis, there is a ban on the co-location of sales of cannabis and alcohol.” -Federal Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Report
BC Premier John Horgan has been careful to use inclusive language that makes references to stakeholders like dispensaries, but he has also referred to the proliferation of these businesses as a ‘problem,’ as has his new Chief of Staff, Geoff Meggs. Then-Premier Christy Clark attacked Horgan in an election debate for suggesting that cannabis be sold in liquor stores.
“BC is a mature jurisdiction, I like to say, when it comes to marijuana,” Horgan said in a radio interview with CFAX. “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 1st 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."
Horgan and the BC NDP, who have a slim hold on power through an alliance with the BC Greens, have been careful not to come down on one side or the other in terms of dispensaries. While not necessarily supported across the entire province, dispensaries are very popular in some ridings that the BC NDP and BC Greens need to keep happy, including ridings in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island where dispensaries are common and support for them is seen as strong.
In his interview with Voice of BC, Farnworth said he also wants to see more of BC’s existing cannabis growers find a way to transition to a legal, regulated market.
“Don’t just leave it to a large-scale commercial operator that effectively shuts out small-scale production in B.C.
“You would have to have clear guidelines that there’s no involvement in organized crime or criminal activity. But those small-scale producers—that production already exists. And if we don’t find a way to bring it in, it is going to continue to exist, and I think that’s a real problem.”
BC is currently home to 17 of 73 cultivation licences issued for medical cannabis producers, including several small, family-run businesses, as well as some with ties to the international cannabis industry. Licensed commercial medical cannabis producers, regulated by the federal government, are being tapped to also supply the future legal recreational cannabis market.
Featured image via Wiki Commons