Article by Amanda Siebert, The Georgia Straight
When it comes to cannabis legalization and things like age limit, distribution, and taxation, British Columbians are still hearing crickets from our provincial government.
While some provinces have reached out to citizens through online surveys, others have shown interest in providing incentives to small businesses, while others still are hoping for a regional distribution plan.
A provincial-territorial working group on cannabis legalization was established at a recent meeting between premiers in Edmonton, and the group is expected to report back to premiers by November 1, with information about common considerations and best practices for legalization and regulation. (Premier Horgan was not at that meeting.)
So far, all we’ve learned is that Solicitor General Mike Farnworth will lead planning for the safe implementation of legalized cannabis.
It looks like British Columbians might be waiting a little bit longer to find out exactly how our ND-Green government plans to distribute and tax cannabis when it’s legalized in 2018, but for now, here’s what other governments are doing to prepare.
Our neighbours to the east held a public engagement process that gave citizens two months to complete an online survey, while organizations were invited to participate in round tables, sector meetings, or make written submissions about the pending legislation.
Topics in the survey included legal age, where to purchase cannabis, using cannabis in public, and road safety.
More than 45,000 Albertans responded to the survey and 100 organizations provided feedback. The province is currently reviewing the engagement findings and will work to develop the Alberta Cannabis Framework, which will be released in draft form to stakeholders and the public in the fall.
This province’s plans for distribution are still quite hazy, which is obvious given Premier Brad Wall’s recent call to delay the federal government’s plan of legalizing cannabis by July 1, 2018.
His office hasn’t provided the public with so much as a timeline on when or how they plan to develop the province’s framework for distribution, but did say in a written statement that a they’ve organized a working group that will “consider the various aspects of the federal legislation, such as the implementation of necessary provincial legislation and regulations, and the creation of an effective model for distribution and taxation.”
While mayors of Regina and Saskatoon have said that revenue from cannabis sales should go to cities to cover the “additional costs” of legalization, Wall has publicly disagreed, saying that revenues should go to education and the prevention of drug-impaired driving.
Like Wall in Saskatchewan, Premier Brian Pallister has putting more energy into convincing the federal government to delay the proposed date for legalization than coming up with a plan to implement it. (At the Council of Federation meeting last month between Canadian premiers, Pallister said he wanted it delayed for an entire year).
Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott made it clear during a recent visit to Winnipeg that such an extension would not be available to any provinces.
So far, some are saying the biggest potential players for distribution in Manitoba could be pharmacies like Shoppers Drug Mart.
Like Alberta, Ontario also launched a public consultation—albeit for a much shorter period of time—with similar questions that pertained to minimum age, where to purchase and use cannabis, road safety, distribution, and public education.
It’s also established Ontario’s Legalization of Cannabis Secretariat, a group made up of various provincial officials that will meet with public health experts to discuss the implications of legalization.
The province is in the midst of preparing an education campaign that will highlight the dangers of cannabis as it pertains to young adults. Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins says it will help “parents and kids understand what the risks are”.
While independent medical cannabis clinics and those operated by licensed producers continue to open up around the province, dispensaries are being raided consistently in Ontario, despite plans to legalize recreational cannabis. Former provincial chief of staff Omar Khan recently told the CBC that dispensary owners that think they’ll be included in the province’s legal framework are “dreaming in technicolour.”