British Columbia could become a testing ground for legal recreational marijuana sales in Canada, if ​UBC adjunct professor Mark Haden has his way.

Marijuana Gum Disease

Haden says there can be lessons learned from the regulation of alcohol and tobacco. (Kevin Frayer/Canadian Press)

Legal sales of recreational marijuana started in Washington state this week, but B.C. says it won't consider it. That's because, in Canada, non-medical marijuana is illegal under the federal Criminal Code. Haden says B.C. could ask for an exemption like the one made for Insite, Vancouver's supervised injection site.

"The province could ask for a Section 56 exemption … as a way of experimenting," Haden told Rick Cluff on CBC Radio's The Early Edition.

"Public health is guided by evidence. And if you want to gather evidence, then what you need to do is demonstrate what you can do."

'Drab, boring, uninteresting'

The vision Haden proposes for legal recreational marijuana sales also runs counter to the current colourful culture of Vancouver head shops"The outlets would not be at street level. They'd be drab, boring-looking facilities that sold non-branded cannabis," Haden says. 

He expects the results would be similar to what can be seen in the Netherlands — the consumption of cannabis would go down.

"We can learn from our experience with alcohol prohibition where only strong, concentrated products were available," he says.  "You walk into a liquor store today, you will see most people prefer a weaker solution of alcohol, namely beer and wine."

"What do you think are the chances of this being accepted?" asks Cluff.

"I look at the linear progression of polls, both in Canada and other countries, and slowly most people are waking up to the fact that drug prohibition does not work…The discussion is what do we change it with," says Haden.

On mobile? Click here to read Mark Haden's proposal.