Article by David Brown, Lift News
‘Craft’ cannabis and a mixed public and private retail model were two of the main topics of the morning at the Union of BC Municipalities’ three hour session on legal cannabis in British Columbia, which took place this Monday at the Fairmont Hotel in downtown Vancouver.
The BC government is still being careful not to give any specifics as to what they plan to do, and Monday’s announcement was largely about an online consultation process that will be open until the end of November. Much of the talk from speakers and attendees was for a mixed model of cannabis retail, similar to how alcohol is sold in BC.
In his speech to the delegates prior to the formal press conference, Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, was careful to say the province had not decided on a distribution model, noting the need for a diverse system.
“We have not landed on any decisions around the distribution model that will be in place. We have not yet landed on any decisions around the retail model that will be in place, because I’ve made it clear, there’s different opinions in different parts of the province. Vancouver has taken one approach, Victoria has taken another approach, but what works in Vancouver may not work in Port Coquitlam or may not work in Prince George or Campbell River or Fort Nelson or Cranbrook. We are open to putting in place a regime that works for the different parts of this province.”
Farnworth says the province will be assembling a joint working group in coordination with UBCM and ‘elected and technical experts’ to look at key issues like enforcement, zoning, licensing, etc.
“We are unique, I think, on this particular issue compared to many other provinces, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that […] there’s a greater use of cannabis in this province than in other provinces in the country. There has been a long established industry black market and gray market in this province, there’s a lot of public awareness about it, so we want to make sure that the public policy that we put in place meets the needs of British Columbians.”
During a four-person panel lead by Vancouver city councillor Kerry Jang—who has been the city’s lead on their business licensing program for medical dispensaries—this diversity of opinion, especially around retail, was highlighted as well.
“We really need to come up with a made in BC solution,” said Jang, “and one that suits different municipalities differently.”
White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin, who was part of the panel, said he thinks Ontario’s approach of a province-run distribution and retail system is the easiest way to get things going, and the province can alter that decision over time.
“It has to be simple. If it’s not simple, it’s going to be very hard to deal with. Ontario’s solution sounds like a quick and dirty way to do it, but I think it’s effective, and maybe thats a good starting point. So something along the lines of what Ontario has proposed might be a good way to go, and we can take a look at it afterwards. But July 2018 isn’t a long way away.”