Pubdate: Mon, 02 Oct 2017
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Ian Mulgrew
Page: A1


B.C. should follow California's lead as it transitions to a legal
cannabis environment and authorizes retail marijuana sales next July.

Both jurisdictions are pot-culture capitals and are dealing with
too-tight deadlines and too many nuanced problems to properly meet

California state voters in 2016 endorsed Proposition 64, which
approved legal cannabis with retail pot sales starting Jan. 1, 2018.

As of November, adults over 21 could possess (and give each other) up
to 28 grams, as well as seven grams of hash, and they can grow up to
six plants.

You have been able to buy medicinal cannabis in California since 1996
- - today you must be 18 or older and either have a physician's
recommendation, a valid civic-issued medical marijuana identification
card or be a primary caregiver as defined by the law.

Now, users can consume cannabis on private property but cannot smoke
or eat cannabis products or vape in public. Property owners and
landlords may also ban the use and possession of pot.

And the state, like B.C., is engaged in an official conversation about
marijuana and its regulation. Local cities and counties in California
doubt they can meet the New Year's Day deadline and are struggling to
integrate the medical and recreational markets. Retail sales could be
delayed for months, maybe even a year or longer in some places,
because zoning, licensing and the regulatory regimes are not ready.

Even San Francisco, perhaps ground zero for the U.S. marijuana
movement, isn't ready - though it is preparing with gusto. Ditto
Oakland, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and Long Beach.

Some smaller centres - like Adelanto and Cathedral City - have rushed
to license vast cannabis farms with an eye on harvesting some of the
expected statewide $1-billion-plus in new pot revenue.

Fresno, by contrast, has banned sales and more than 100 cities and
counties have already restricted or prohibited growing.

Most major Californian cities and counties are trying to design
multi-faceted schemes that work for their specific community, an idea
supported by B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth.

Part of the problem is the state administration doesn't have all its
regulations and rules in place, so local governments remain partly in
the dark about their ambit.

It's the same here - Ottawa's legalization bill still may undergo
amendment, leaving the province, and thus civic governments, hanging.

But the bigger concern in California and in B.C. is how to deal with
the widespread guerrilla growing community, existing outlets and a
medicinal sector that can display a holierthan-thou attitude and
oversized sense of entitlement.

Many patients in both countries are annoyed at what they see as the
downsides of legalization for them - more regulation, higher costs,
tougher impaired driving laws and far more scrutiny.

California has operated one of America's most robust medical marijuana
systems and the state Bureau of Cannabis Control says the status quo
will continue for the interim.

But existing dispensaries that are being grandfathered in must be
brought into line with the state's Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis
Regulation and Safety Act, which requires all parts of the supply
chain to be transparent and controlled.

That means black market nurseries, manufacturers and producers must
obtain licences.

As in B.C., those who have been operating beyond the pale without
taxes or regulation are balking and predicting the sky will fall - pot
shortages, the ascendancy of Big Business, the subterranean industry's
collapse bringing down small-town economies.

It is a conundrum, just as deciding who should be able to participate
in what many believe will be a very lucrative market is a

San Francisco, for example, isn't planning on issuing retail marijuana
business permits until it creates an equity program to ensure the
poor, minorities and those with a drug record can become pot

Oakland passed the state's first equity program in March, setting
aside half the city's permits.

B.C. should be learning from California and, I think, considering
similar measures.

For instance, there are a handful of compassion clubs and
honest-to-goodness dispensaries in the province with legitimate claims
to being grandfathered into the new regime. But there are also scores
of scofflaws who have opened dispensaries in recent years as part of a
brazen cash grab who need to be shut down.

If the federal government insists as it does now on controlling
production, Farnworth has indicated B.C.'s legion of illicit growers
and manufacturers will be told their heyday is over. That is going to
trigger enormous whining and change in places such as the Kootenays.
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MAP posted-by: Matt