Pubdate: Tue, 26 Sep 2017
Source: Prince George Citizen (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Prince George Citizen
Author: Ian Mulgrew
Page: 4


The fledgling B.C. NDP government has decided how it will deal with
the looming legalization of marijuana: continue talking it to death.

Dispensary owners, illegal producers, consumers, patients, parents -
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth explained Monday that everyone's
opinion is being sought because "one size does not fit all" and "we
need to get it right."

Until four o'clock on the Day of the Dead, Nov. 1, Farnworth says
anyone can participate in a new province-wide conversation on pot -
the minimum age, personal possession limits, public consumption,
drug-impaired driving, personal cultivation, distribution, retail
models … It's all on the table. "We want to hear from as many people
as possible about how we can best protect our kids, keep our roads
safe and lock criminals out of the non-medical cannabis industry," he
told a packed meeting room at the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities
conference in downtown Vancouver. "Public engagement is crucial."

The government will also conduct a telephone survey and create
specific opportunities to hear from local government and Indigenous
groups as well as stakeholders such as police, producers and health
care experts.

Civic politicians were elated at the prospect of helping shape the
provincial framework for recreational pot that will include zoning,
licensing, enforcement and other regulation.

"Local governments welcome the start of the consultation process as we
move toward creating a made-in-B.C. approach to legalization," said
Murry Krause, UBCM president and a Prince George city councillor.

In particular, the municipalities are looking for a slice of the
cannabis-revenue pie and for commitments of federal and provincial
money to offset the new costs they will incur because of the expected
increase in grow operations, public consumption, impaired driving and
other pressures on civic resources.

Still, with legalization barely 10 months away, it seems a little late
in the game to be setting aside five weeks for consultation.

Farnworth insisted, though, that the responses would be processed and
enabling legislation informed by that feedback drafted in time for the
February sitting of the Legislature to ensure there is a system in
place by Ottawa's July deadline.

He acknowledged that was a serious challenge, but a bigger challenge
will be how to deal with B.C.'s massive underground production industry.

At the moment, it appears the national legislation will permit only
licensed federal producers, and Farnworth said he is waiting to see if
that changes as the bill moves through parliament.

Until then, the province is addressing distribution and retail sales -
whatever dispensaries or shops that are allowed to exist will be
expected to conform to federal law, he added.

Using only the federal producers has evoked concerns of an initial
supply shortage as the cadre of approved companies may not be able to
ramp up quickly enough to meet both the medicinal and recreational
demand for cannabis.

In Vancouver, the issue of production also promises a major clash
involving the scores of illegal dispensaries and shops supplied by the
black market.

Unlike Toronto, which has charged hundreds of store owners, employees
and landlords, Vancouver has refused federal entreaties to enforce the
continuing prohibition while awaiting legalization.

That has created a well-funded but disorganized lobby opposing
Ottawa's proposal and demanding a much more libertarian regime with
space for currently illicit producers and a broader selection of
cannabis products.

The dispensaries and shops face ruin if they must buy from the
licensed producers who have no incentive to provide the retailers with
a wholesale price break as they also sell directly to consumers.

Nevertheless, Vancouver Councillor Kerry Jang maintained the city
would enforce a new federal and provincial regime.

"Certainly our anticipation is that when those laws are finally in
place we are going to have to follow them," he said.
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