Rich Coleman wants to prevent dispensary owners from becoming legal

Coleman, interim opposition leader, called on Horgan to prevent any currently illegal dispensaries from ever being able to sell cannabis legally in BC

Rich Coleman, the interim leader of the BC Liberal Party, wants the province to commit to banning anyone who operated illegally in the cannabis space from being allowed to legally sell cannabis in BC, post-legalization.

Coleman, who has a history of anti-cannabis sentiment, called on BC Premier John Horgan during Question Period in the BC House last Thursday to formally announce such a ban. Horgan responded to this demand by pointing out that Coleman’s own party presided over an unprecedented "explosion of dispensaries on their watch."

The BC government, under the control of the BC Liberal Party since 2001, has seen a growing illicit cannabis industry beyond its immediate control that is by many estimates worth several billion in the province, and exports of the product to the US and other markets have made ‘BC Bud’ a worldwide brand.

Coleman became interim leader on August 4, after former premier Christy Clark resigned following her party’s defeat earlier this year.

"I just want (the) Premier to commit today that nobody that has been selling in a dispensary in British Columbia, either with not having the right licence or not having the right bylaw, will ever, ever get the opportunity to sell marijuana in British Columbia." - BC Liberals' Interim Leader Rich Coleman

Horgan and the BC NDP, who have a slim hold on power through an alliance with the BC Greens, have been careful to not 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.


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Horgan has referred to dispensary proliferation under the previous government as ‘a problem,’ but he and his party have also intimated that they are potentially open to cities choosing to allow dispensaries to operate legally, while other communities may opt to ban them. In the run-up to the election, Horgan was criticized by Clark for suggesting cannabis be sold by liquor stores.

Similarly, the BC Greens have been careful to refer to supporting aspects of the embedded market like ‘craft’ growers and excluding ‘multinationals,’ while also saying they believe pharmacies and liquor stores could be the best place to sell cannabis.

"We all know, certainly those that live in the Lower Mainland and the south Island, where there is a proliferation of dispensaries, that municipal levels of government have been ahead of the curve on this when senior levels of government have been waiting for some action from Ottawa." - BC Premier John Horgan

The BC Government is currently undergoing a public and private consultation process with stakeholders, municipalities and more to come up with a plan for legal non-medical cannabis sales in British Columbia, but has not made any specific comments about a retail or distribution system, yet.

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