Battle over future of legal marijuana in B.C. just starting

Big pot decisions face province as Ottawa presses ahead (with video)

Marijuana growing in operations of commercially licensed producer CanniMed.

Marijuana growing in operations of commercially licensed producer CanniMed.

A federal task force’s road map to legalize recreational marijuana sales would leave the problem of exactly how pot dealing should be regulated to the B.C. government.

The 80 recommendations released Tuesday urge separate retail storefronts to sell pot, rather than allowing sales through existing liquor stores or outlets that sell tobacco, but what form retailing should take would be left to the provinces, presumably in consultation with municipalities.

It leaves retail pot sellers who have defied the criminal law to open medical marijuana “dispensaries” well positioned, especially in cities like Vancouver that have already regulated them.

“I very much expect those dispensaries to continue to transition into the fully legal system as this goes forward,” said dispensary owner Dana Larsen. “The question is where we get our supply from. I’m not opposed to buying cannabis from licensed producers if our current suppliers can become licensed.”

RELATED: Sell marijuana in storefronts and through the mail: federal task force

It’s yet to be seen how the Trudeau government will translate the recommendations into federal legislation to meet the election campaign promise to legalize pot.

The B.C. government has given little sign so far of where it leans on exercising provincial jurisdiction over legal pot.

Public Safety Minister Mike Morris said government officials have been studying the issue and said the province’s top priority will be public health and safety, including the protection of children and curbing drug-impaired driving.

“It’s early in the process,” Morris said. “Whatever tax regime we bring in we have to make sure that it’s not going to promote the illicit distribution of cannabis across British Columbia or Canada.”

He said existing dispensary operators will have to conform to whatever final regulations are set by the province. “I can see many of them shutting down.”

NDP MLA Mike Farnworth accused the B.C. Liberal government of failing to consult the public sooner.

He said outstanding questions include whether the province would share any pot revenue it gets with municipalities.

“There are key questions around what the kinds of products are that can be sold,” Farnworth said. “In Washington State you can only sell dry edibles, but in Oregon you can sell a much broader range –  ice cream, for example.”

Would the province allow municipalities that don’t want legal marijuana outlets at all to refuse them?

“I think that will be a debate,” said B.C. lawyer and pot reform advocate Kirk Tousaw. “Municipalities are going to react to these things in different ways. This is a step and there are battles to come. And that is probably one of them.”

Tousaw said the proposed framework is generally “a win” for all involved, particularly established dispensaries and licensed producers.

But he took issue with some proposed regulations.

Home growers would be allowed to grow up to four plants up to 100 cm tall themselves for personal use. Tousaw called that limit arbitrary with no logic behind it.

“You can grow one plant two feet tall with hundreds of branches under a giant net that never reaches 100 centimetres tall but produces more cannabis than 50 plants,” he said.

And a proposed 30-gram limit for personal possession is at odds with the fact there is no such limit for alcohol, Tousaw added.

“You can back a pickup truck up to a liquor store and buy enough booze to kill a small town.”

The task force calls for tight regulation of cultivation for commercial sale to track product from seed to sale, to keep it from entering the black market and to allow for health-based recalls.

That would appear to undermine the dream of pot reform advocates for much more liberal policies that favour new startups, not just big corporate producers.

Tousaw said he still hopes an exemption could be created for small craft growers to sell their pot the way wineries do in their on-site stores or at farmers markets.

The report calls for more work with the provinces to determine how legal pot would be taxed, with an equitable distribution of revenues.

It recommends that more potent high-THC pot be sold at higher prices or with extra taxes.

Larsen said Ottawa must not go so far as to kill the industry before it gets off the ground.

“The main way to solve most of the problems with cannabis prohibition is to make sure legal cannabis is cheaper than it is now,” he said. “If they try to tax it too much, if they try to put extra taxes on high potency marijuana and things like that, it just perpetuates the black market.”

Other findings of the federal task force

  • 18 should be the minimum age to buy recreational marijuana, but provinces like B.C. could make it the same as their legal drinking age of 19.
  • Pot tasting lounges should be allowed in retail storefronts.
  • Retail outlets should be regulated so they aren’t clustered together and to keep an appropriate distance from schools, parks and community centres.
  • Current medical marijuana regulations to remain unchanged for now.
  • Further study of how to regulate drugged driving, the potential development of a THC limit in the blood for enforcement, and exploration of roadside screening device options.
  • Tightly regulate advertising and packaging.
  • Pot edibles can’t be packaged to be appealing to children or mimic candy.
  • Apply same current restrictions on public smoking of tobacco to marijuana smoking and vaping.

Marijuana Legalization Task Force Report by Jeff Nagel on Scribd

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Scales of Justice
Court awards woman $167K after vehicle was struck by White Rock taxi in 2016

Plaintiff’s knee injuries and resulting chronic pain disability are genuine, judge rules

An example of a Surrey Police cruiser, showcased at Mayor Doug McCallum’s State of the City Address at Civic Hotel in May of 2019. (File photo: Amy Reid)
Surrey Police Service hires first three inspectors as ‘next layer of leadership’

Three men have more than 80 years of combined experience

An officer collects forensic evidence from a police SUV following the July 18, 2015 incident that ended in the police-shooting death of Hudson Brooks in South Surrey. (File photo)
UPDATE: Verdict, recommendations in coroner’s inquest into 2015 police-shooting death in South Surrey

Review of force options among recommendations out of coroner’s inquest into death of Hudson Brooks

(Photo: Now-Leader).
Surrey Schools seeking community input for 2021-22 budget

Majority of it is pre-allocated, but room to address priorities in the community

TEASER - SAGAís Gift Shop Manager Barbie Warwick wearing The Summons while sketching in Facing Time exhibit. Photo by Pardeep Singh.jpg
‘The Summons’ face masks created as fundraiser for Surrey Art Gallery Association

Image of magnolia flower and poetry printed on specially designed mask

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

Burnaby Mounties responded to 56 complaints and issued 10 tickets to people flouting COVID-19 restrictions in February. (Patrick Davies/100 Mile Free Press)
COVID denier fined $2,300 for hosting gathering in her home: Burnaby RCMP

The woman told Mounties she does not believe the pandemic is real

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith stands in front of his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster float. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks’ Flying Spaghetti Monster leader still boiling over driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith, head of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., said he has since spoken to lawyers

Most Read