British Columbia

20,000 ideas and counting: British Columbians offer feedback on legal cannabis

Premier John Horgan has hinted that the province is favouring the drug to be sold at public and private venues, much like liquor.

Premier hints at private and public sales, while feedback forum open until Nov. 1

The response to a public consultation about how legal cannabis should be distributed in B.C. has been overwhelming. (CBC)

The B.C. government has received more than 20,000 responses from the public on questions concerning how legal marijuana should be regulated and sold in the province.

And it's only halfway through its public consultation on how to implement non-medical cannabis distribution in the province, once the federal government makes it legal in July 2018.

The B.C. Cannabis Regulation Engagement closes on Nov. 1. and is asking for feedback on the minimum age to buy cannabis. It's also asking for public input on these topics:

  • Personal possession limits
  • Public consumption
  • Drug-impaired driving
  • Personal cultivation and distribution
  • Retail models

Following the first minister's meeting in Ottawa last week Premier John Horgan hinted at the direction B.C. is heading on legal cannabis.

"We are going to be looking at what I believe will be a mixed-model," Horgan said, which means the drug could be sold at private and public stores, like pharmacies or liquor stores.

That was good news for Paul Finch, with the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union, which represents B.C. Liquor Store employees.

"We are very encouraged that they are moving on this, that they are starting to consider it," Finch said.

"We think that it's a responsible consultation process they are engaging in."

The government says no decisions will be made until after public consultations wrap up.

'Cat is out of the bag'

When decisions do come, existing marijuana businesses are banking on their ability to remain open, despite currently operating illegally under federal rules. 

"With the quantity of dispensaries already getting licensed in municipalities like Victoria and Vancouver, the cat is kind of out of the bag," said Travis Lane with the B.C. Independent Cannabis Association.

Lane and others are supportive of the government's consultation process and have been making submissions, highlighting how illegal dispensaries have already developed an efficient distribution system for cannabis.

The government says one of its main priorities with provincial regulations is to keep criminals out of cannabis.

It also wants to protect young people and keep roads safe.

"All of these changes will require careful thought to ensure the right balance is struck for moving forward," a government statement said.

with files from Megan Thomas.