Pubdate: Tue, 26 Sep 2017
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Times Colonist
Author: Jack Knox
Page: A3


They say B.C.'s pot laws have taken so long to sort out because May's
provincial election delayed the process.

Either that, or our guys were hot-boxing a van behind the legislature
and simply forgot to get it done.

In any case, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth left more questions
than answers Monday when, rather than unveiling the regulations many
expected, he merely announced a public consultation process.

Ontario might already have its pot plans in place, but here in the
birthplace of B.C. Bud, we prefer a more relaxed approach: We'll
gather information from stakeholders and the public, or maybe listen
to a little Allman Brothers, until Nov. 1.

Here's what we know as the July 2018 legalization of recreational
marijuana nears. It will be up to Ottawa to determine who grows it. It
will be up to the provincial government to say how it gets distributed
and sold.

Some stuff will be standard across the province: enforcement,
possession limits, distribution, the age at which pot is legal. Ottawa
has set age 18 as the floor, but B.C. would probably harmonize that
with the drinking age, currently 19.

How marijuana will be distributed (liquor stores? pharmacies?
for-profit retailers?) has yet to be determined, though Farnworth did
note that unlike other provinces, B.C. has a well-established network
of pot shops. What he didn't mention was that the city of Victoria has
9,637 of them, while its immediate neighbours have none.

That's significant, as Farnworth, arguing that a "one size fits all"
approach won't work in a sprawling jurisdiction as diverse as B.C.,
hinted that individual municipalities will be left to determine
whether and where retailers will be allowed in their

That sounds like a recipe for another patchwork approach here in
Dysfunction-by-the-Sea, where each of our 13 municipalities enjoys its
own novel/experimental/delightfully iconoclastic way of dealing with
everything from bike lanes to the number of backyard chickens you can

As it is, Victoria and Sooke license pot shops, Langford plays
Whac-a-Mole with them, and others shun them with the vigour of the
Women's Christian Temperance Union.

That's distinct from the model used to the south of us in Washington,
where the state liquor and marijuana authority decides how many
retailers can be licensed in a given community. (For example, Port
Angeles, pop. 19,000, has been allocated three pot shops, while three
more have been allowed in the rest of Clallam County.)

What about rural communities so small that the province allows liquor
to be sold in a corner of the general store - will weed share the
shelves with Canadian Club, toilet paper and spaghetti (or, more
likely, Doritos)? What will happen to existing medical marijuana
dispensaries, the old-school compassion clubs? (In Washington, they
were folded into the recreational regime.) Will consumption be allowed
in public? Confined to a private residence?

There really are a gazillion details to be worked out in a short
period, given the dramatic shift legalization represents. This is all
a long way from the days when Harold Hedd trucked through the pages of
the Georgia Straight and $20 would buy a four-finger lid of what was
probably half alfalfa.

Now the pot industry isn't just mainstream but populated with people
long associated with the other side of the fence. Christy Clark's
health minister, Terry Lake, recently announced he was joining a
medical-marijuana company. In May, former Victoria police chief Frank
Elsner announced he would do security consulting for marijuana businesses.

Former Toronto police chief Julian Fantino, a cabinet minister in the
Harper government, has just teamed up with former RCMP deputy
commissioner Raf Souccar in a business that will link medical
marijuana users with licensed growers.

Government isn't legalizing pot because it thinks smoking marijuana is
a good idea. It's doing so because criminalization A) hasn't stopped
those who want to smoke dope from doing so, and B) just funnels all
the marijuana money to people willing to break the law.

That reality led Farnworth to caution against using pot as a cash cow
for government.

Set pot taxes too high, or restrict access too tightly, and the black
market will continue to flourish. The election really did delay B.C.'s
pot rules, but best to take what time is left to get them right.
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MAP posted-by: Matt