The provincial government is seeking a director for its cannabis enforcement unit, which will investigate and shut down unlicensed dispensaries when recreational cannabis becomes legal later this year.
The new drug czar will be tasked with ferreting out “willful non-compliance” by unlicensed cannabis shops and taking regulatory and criminal enforcement action against them.
Recreational cannabis could be legal to possess by this August under federal law. In B.C., its sale will likely be restricted to government-run stores and private retailers licensed by the province.
That could leave well over 100 existing cannabis shops subject to more focused enforcement than they have seen in years.
Enforcement by police against black market retailers has been sporadic, especially in Vancouver. The city has instead chosen to regulate the trade with permits and business licenses, even though their products are still illegal. Several more cannabis “dispensaries” are scattered through the Okanagan and the Sunshine Coast.
“B.C. is committed to implementing a well-regulated retail system that only sells legally produced and tested cannabis,” according to the Ministry of Public Safety and the Solicitor General. “That means that existing dispensaries will have to close, unless they obtain a (provincial) licence.”
Legalization activist and entrepreneur Dana Larsen is skeptical.
“This will take years if not decades to resolve, most likely through the courts,” he said. “Most of the cannabis smoked in Canada will continue to be free-market cannabis.”