Pubdate: Wed, 06 Dec 2017
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Times Colonist
Author: Lindsay Kines
Page: A1


Liquor branch will be sole distributor, retail system to be

British Columbians will have to be at least 19 years of age to buy and
use marijuanaonce the federal government legalizes recreational pot in
the summer.

B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth announced the minimum age limit
Tuesday in releasing a series of policy decisions on the regulation of
non-medicinal marijuana.

He said the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch will be the wholesale
distributor of marijuana in the province.

The retail system has yet to be announced, but will include a mixture
of public and private outlets, Farnworth said. Details are expected in
early 2018. "We are still looking at a series of options as to how
that will take place," he said.

The province expects to introduce or amend up to 18 pieces of
legislation in the spring to deal with the federal government's plans
to legalize and restrict access to marijuana beginning in July.

The House of Commons passed its legalization bill last month and sent
it to the Senate for further study.

Under the proposed law, the federal government would be responsible
for regulating production and setting health and safety standards. The
provinces would oversee distribution and sales.

The B.C. government said requiring people to be at least 19 to buy
marijuana is consistent with provincial rules on alcohol and tobacco.

The Doctors of B.C. and the Canadian Medical Association wanted
governments to set the minimum age at 21. "Our concern has been that
we know that people's brains can continue to develop until they're
about 25," said Dr. Trina Larsen Soles, president of Doctors of B.C.

Farnworth said the government tried to strike a balance between
protecting young people and eliminating the black market for marijuana.

"We know that the largest consumers of cannabis are young people in
that 19-to-30-year-old age group," he said. "As a result, if you set
[the limit] too high - for example at 25 - you're not going to get rid
of the black market, because they're going to go and get it elsewhere.

"So what we've done is what all the other provinces have done and tie
the age of consumption to the age of consuming alcohol."

He said there will be "zero tolerance" policy for those under the age
of 19 caught in possession of marijuana.

Alex Robb, general manager of Trees Dispensary, which runs five
cannabis stores in Victoria and one in Nanaimo, took it as a positive
sign that the province is considering a mixture of public and private
retail outlets. "I see this as a big win for licensed dispensaries -
not necessarily the entire dispensary community, but those that have
been approved by municipalities already."

Robb said two of Trees Dispensary's Victoria storefronts are licensed
and the other three are in process. He expects the government will
provide retail opportunities to businesses "who have demonstrated they
can play by the rules, that they can follow regulations that are set
for them and that have been granted licences already."

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said the city took a risk by developing its
own zoning and business licence regulations without direction from the

"It's one of those cases where the risk-taking has brought with it, I
think, substantial rewards," she said. "While many municipalities
across the province are going to need to create zoning regulations and
business licence regulations for cannabis dispensaries, we will simply
need to tweak our existing regulations based on direction from the

The Union of B.C. Municipalities endorsed the policy decisions
announced Tuesday, but will await details on how and where marijuana
will be sold.

Vancouver Coun. Kerry Jang, who co-chairs the joint provincial-local
government committee on cannabis regulation, said municipalities
oppose the sale of pot in liquor stores. "That is not a good public
health move at this time and, hopefully, they won't do that," he said.
"I know it's tempting. It sounds easy."

But he said there is a concern that selling alcohol and marijuana at
the same location will lead to co-use. "They'll be drunk and high and
you don't want that."

Stephanie Smith, president of the B.C. Government and Service
Employees' Union, disputed that claim. Her union, which represents
government liquor store workers, has teamed with private operators to
push for the sale of marijuana through more than 850 public and
private liquor stores across B.C.

"We were unable to actually find any evidence or reports that actually
proved that co-location can lead to problems," she said. "So we felt
that this could be dealt with in the store at the point of sale. Our
members are trained in Serving It Right and responsible sales."
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