Pubdate: Thu, 28 Sep 2017
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Times Colonist
Page: A9


The B.C. government is making time to listen as it plans new marijuana
regulations, even though the listening will leave only a few months to
finish crafting the rules for the coming new era of legal pot. Mike
Farnworth, minister of public safety and solicitor general, said this
week that the public consultation will be finished by Nov. 1. The
government will have to finish writing rules and regulations by next

The federal government introduced legislation in April that would
legalize recreational marijuana by July 1, 2018, but is leaving it up
to each province to determine its own distribution system and usage

Those who were hoping that this week's announcement would spell out
the province's position in detail didn't get all their wishes. Some
things will be determined after the consultations conclude.

One of the big questions is how much responsibility and how many
problems will land in the laps of local governments.

Cities such as Victoria have already watched the problems sprout along
with the proliferation of pot shops. Meanwhile, in Langford, the city
has diligently squashed any attempts to open retail operations before
they become legal. All are counting the days until this bizarre state
of waiting is finally over.

Municipalities, and their residents, want to know what the rules will
be. Although the government argues that the turmoil of the recent
provincial election has delayed everything, holding off the new regime
until the middle of next year is cutting it too close for comfort.

Businesses and local governments won't be able to throw the switch
overnight. They have been trying to anticipate what's coming from
senior governments, but many unanswered questions hamper their

One thing everyone needs is consistency. The same rules have to apply
across the province, to avoid a nightmare for residents, governments
and law enforcement.

Farnworth did promise that some things would be consistent, including
age restrictions, enforcement and possession limits. The most sensible
answer to the first question is to set the legal age at 19, so it's
the same as the age for liquor; having two different ages would be too
confusing for everyone.

Despite Farnworth's assurances of consistency, the important
regulations on where people can buy their pot are still up in the air.
The province seems to have rejected the recently announced Ontario
model, which would sell marijuana through provincial liquor stores.

Instead, Farnworth said he doesn't want to force municipalities to
follow one retail model.

"I think it's important that local government is not only heard and at
the table, but there's an understanding that one size does not fit
all," Farnworth said.

"One size does not fit all" sounds as if it could be a hodgepodge of
different rules, something that is likely to create more headaches
than it solves.

Those headaches, as usual, would belong to the governments with the
least resources: municipalities, which are already concerned about the
cost of this new regulatory age.

Farnworth promised: "We are not looking at this as a downloading
exercise - we want to make sure we have in place the resources to deal
with those upfront costs that are required." Mayors and councillors
should take that with a grain of salt, as downloading has been a
senior-government fallback strategy for decades.

Everyone involved might be tempted to toke up to deal with the stress
of waiting, but that would just blunt the sense of urgency that is
required in this case. Consult by all means, but get the new rules
written in time for governments and businesses to adapt.
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