Prince George-Mackenzie MLA Mike Morris says the NDP government’s plans on how the province will deal with the legalization of marijuana come up short.
“As usual, the BC NDP have dithered and delayed in making another actual decision,” he said Monday. “This announcement leaves a lot of questions to be answered at a later date which is very concerning. We’re five months away from legalization coming into effect and we’re still only seeing part of a plan.”
Solicitor General Mike Farnworth unveiled the province’s plans Monday which will put the legal age for marijuana consumption at 19 years old and, while under the purview of the Liquor Distribution Branch, won’t be sold in government liquor stores. . B.C.’s Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) will operate a new standalone network of public retail stores and the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB) will be responsible for licensing private stores and monitoring the retail sector.
“While I am happy to see the province support the federal recommendation on co-location, those who were hoping the BC NDP would have an implementation plan will be sorely disappointed,” said Morris. “The BC Liberal focus has always been public safety, ensuring children aren’t exposed to cannabis and not allowing criminals to benefit from legalization. The NDP have failed with these weak regulations and British Columbians deserve better.”
The operating rules governing public and private retail stores will be similar to those currently in place for liquor. However, to promote responsible use, licensed retailers will not be able to sell cannabis in the same stores as liquor or tobacco. In urban areas, licensed retailers will only be allowed to sell cannabis and cannabis accessories, and will be prohibited from selling other products, such as food, gas, clothing and lottery.
Farnworth said government recognizes that retail access for people in rural areas will require a different approach than those used in urban communities and will establish exceptions for rural non-medical cannabis retail stores, similar to those of rural liquor stores. The criteria for determining these rural areas are currently under development.
“British Columbians want clarity surrounding cannabis in their communities and they didn’t get that today,” said Morris. “What are the rules for rural B.C.? The government will get back to you. What role will local government have in approving retail locations? Stay tuned, the NDP just isn’t quite sure.”
This spring, the province will launch an early registration process for individuals and businesses who are interested in applying for a cannabis retail licence. Although B.C. will not cap the number of retail licences available, licences will not be issued without the support of local governments, which will have the authority to make local decisions, based on the needs of their communities.
“As a result of months of engagement, additional research and analysis, we continue to build the Province’s regulatory framework and have set policy direction on other key aspects of how non-medical cannabis will be regulated in B.C.,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “These decisions include safeguards for the retail sales of non-medical cannabis and are driven by our priorities of protecting youth, promoting health and safety, keeping the criminal element out of cannabis and keeping our roads safe.”
Personal public possession limits
Adults aged 19 years and older will be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of non-medical cannabis in a public place, which aligns with the federal government’s proposed possession limit for adults.
Those under the legal age of 19 years will be prohibited from possessing any amount of non-medical cannabis. Additionally, cannabis transported in a motor vehicle will need to be in a sealed package, or inaccessible to vehicle occupants.
Places of use
B.C. will generally allow adults to use non-medical cannabis in public spaces where tobacco smoking and vaping are permitted. However, to minimize child and youth exposure, smoking and vaping of non-medical cannabis will be banned in areas frequented by children, including community beaches, parks and playgrounds. Use of cannabis in any form will also be banned for all occupants in vehicles.
Local governments will be able to set additional restrictions, as they do now for tobacco use. In addition, landlords and strata councils will be able to restrict or prohibit non-medical cannabis smoking and vaping at tenanted and strata properties.
B.C. will align with the proposed federal legislation and allow adults to grow up to four cannabis plants per household, but the plants must not be visible from public spaces off the property. Home cultivation of non-medical cannabis will be banned in dwellings used as day cares. In addition, landlords and strata councils will be able restrict or prohibit home cultivation.
Drug-impaired driving will continue to be illegal and B.C. will increase training for law enforcement in this area. B.C. will also toughen provincial regulations to give police more tools to remove drug-impaired drivers from the road and deter drug-affected driving, including:
B.C. will create a new 90-day administrative driving prohibition (ADP) for drug-affected driving; and
The current zero-tolerance restrictions for the presence of alcohol for drivers in the Graduated Licensing Program (GLP) will be expanded to include zero tolerance for the presence of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis.
“National legalization of non-medical cannabis represents an historic shift in public policy. This provincial regulatory framework provides a sound foundation to support the provincial goals that prioritize public health and safety,” Farnworth said. “That said, July 2018 is only the beginning of our journey, and these changes will not happen overnight. We fully anticipate all levels of government will need to continue to assess and refine cannabis policy and regulation in the months and years to come.”
Additional details on the retail framework, including frequently asked questions for potential applicants, are available at: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/Cannabis_Private_Retail_Licensing_Guide.pdf