Pubdate: Fri, 24 Nov 2017
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Authors: Stephanie Smith and Damian Kettlewell
Page: A15


A proven system is already in place, Stephanie Smith and Damian
Kettlewell write.

It's late afternoon and you receive a text message: "Please pick up
wine." You pull into the neighbourhood liquor store, pick up a bottle
and head home. A familiar scene taking place across the province every

When you go into your local liquor store, you know you are buying a
quality product in a secure environment, with stores conveniently
located across the province.

B.C.'s public and private liquor stores have a proven track record
selling controlled alcohol products to adults in a responsible manner,
with more than a 90 per cent compliance rate in restricting sales to

B.C.'s liquor stores are a perfect fit for non-medical cannabis sales,
especially given the tight timeline for implementation of July 1
provided by the federal government. B.C.'s efficient liquor
distribution network has been serving controlled products to British
Columbians for 96 years.

During the provincial government's public consultation on non-medical
cannabis regulation, some groups have suggested that co-locating
marijuana with alcohol is not recommended, as it contributes to co-use
of the products. Others have suggested that people using medical
marijuana to help treat alcoholism should not have to purchase
cannabis from a liquor store.

The Responsible Marijuana Retail Alliance of B.C. fully supports an
evidence-based public health policy approach that discourages the
co-use of alcohol, marijuana and tobacco. We also believe that medical
cannabis use should be administered by a safe, separate and effective
medical cannabis distribution system.

As part of this evidence-based process, we point to a submission to
the federal cannabis task force by the Centre for Addiction and Mental
Health (CAMH), Canada's largest mental health and addiction teaching
hospital, which states that "there is no evidence as to whether
selling cannabis and alcohol alongside one another encourages or
facilitates co-use."

In contrast to the lack of evidence of harm associated with
co-location, academic research shows that harm-reduction policies are
better implemented by public agencies like the Liquor Distribution
Branch than by private networks.

The CAMH submission supports the distribution of non-medical cannabis
by "provincial liquor boards." Both Ontario and New Brunswick have
already decided to use liquor boards to distribute and retail cannabis.

The Ontario government approach to cannabis sales uses the public
liquor distribution network to sell non-medical cannabis in 150 costly
new public stand-alone sales outlets. However, only 40 locations will
be in place in the first year, with the remainder to open by 2020 -
creating ongoing demand for a black market cannabis industry. By
contrast, B.C.'s 868 public and private liquor stores, with our highly
trained staff, already provide secure sale of controlled substances
across the province.

B.C.'s liquor stores are also compliant with current municipal zoning
bylaws and provincial licensing regulations, unlike the majority of
existing unlicensed cannabis dispensaries.

Given the short time frame for B.C. to implement federal cannabis
regulations, any standalone distribution network would be extremely
costly to implement, and would duplicate the work done by the existing
Liquor Distribution Branch. It would be difficult if not impossible to
have a parallel system in place by next summer.

We believe that B.C.'s existing sales and distribution system
maximizes the benefits to our province while minimizing risks. Done
properly, the retail and distribution of non-medical cannabis through
our current liquor distribution system will create good jobs for
British Columbians and generate revenue to fund public services, while
minimizing potential harms associated with cannabis use.

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Stephanie Smith is president of the B.C. Government and Service 
Employees' Union; Damian Kettlewell is a director and cannabis spokesman 
of the Association of Beverage Licenses of B.C. on behalf of the 
Responsible Marijuana Retail Alliance of B.C.
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