B.C. to begin rolling out pot legislation this week

Expect some long-awaited details from the province this week on how marijuana will be regulated when it becomes legal in July 2018.

Policy framework for non-medicinal marijuana likely introduced Thursday, but no details yet on pricing, stores

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth announces a public engagement process for the regulation of marijuana in British Columbia on Sept. 25, 2017 (Justin McElroy/CBC)

Expect some long-awaited details from the province this week on how marijuana will be regulated when it becomes legal in July. 

Just not how much things will cost or where public stores will be. 

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth has told CBC News legislation will likely be brought in Thursday to give a policy framework for government rules, first outlined in February, around non-medicinal cannabis.

Those include setting the legal age at 19, allowing adults to possess up to 30 grams of non-medicinal cannabis at a time, stiff penalties for adults driving while impaired, bans on smoking in beaches, parks and playgrounds and veto power to municipalities on applications for any retail licence.  

However, rules on pricing, along with locations for the public standalone stores operated by the Liquor Distribution Branch, will not be revealed. 

"I've been clear, right from the beginning, you're not going to see whole piles of stores up and running right away. It will be ramping up. We will be working with local governments, because they're the ones that have to implement it," said Farnworth. 

A spokesperson for the ministry said both an e-commerce platform for online purchase across the province and the first government-operated retail store should be up and running by the summer.  

Behind other provinces

Despite B.C.'s extensive cannabis industry, it's behind other provinces in starting the process for licensing and distribution.

Quebec announced the location of its first four pot stores on Monday and Ontario did the same earlier this month, while the City of Calgary received over 220 applications for licences on Wednesday. 

"I would have thought B.C. would have been leading in this area, not lagging behind every other province in this country. I think we're the last to table legislation and that is unfortunate, because we should be leaders on this issue," said Kirk Tousaw, a lawyer specializing in cannabis laws. 

He's not overly concerned about not knowing where the government will put its stores, but worries about the short window private dispensaries could have to apply for licences and comply with new regulations. 

"How do you apply? Who can apply? How easy is it for these existing dispensaries to transition to legality and is there going to be some kind of grace period where these organizations will be able to continue servicing their members?"

Farnworth said part of the reason for the delay was because of their commitment to work with municipalities — but also the fact they were a new government. 

"We had an election year, and, as a result, we weren't able to get working on this file. Instead, we were sworn in in July," he said. 

About the Author

Justin McElroy

@j_mcelroy

Justin is a reporter for CBC Vancouver, covering political stories throughout British Columbia.

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