From Vancouver Sun:
Solicitor General Mike Farnworth tabled three bills in the legislature that will amend different B.C. laws to pave the way for legal recreational cannabis later this year. Ottawa had said legalization could occur by July 1 but it now appears likely to be delayed beyond that date. B.C. said it expects to open its first government-operated retail store by late summer, followed by online sales.
“This bill represents a balanced response to the federal government’s decision to legalize non-medical cannabis,” said Farnworth.
The legislation formalizes many of the details the B.C. government had indicated in February as it began grappling with the cannabis issue. They include a legal purchase age of at least 19, stand-alone public and private cannabis stores, which are not allowed to sell alcohol or tobacco alongside the cannabis, a provincial distribution network handled by the Liquor Distribution Branch and a personal possession limit of 30 grams for recreational use.
Language in the legislation that protects small industry and allows it to operate alongside larger licensed producers was welcomed by Deepak Anand, vice-president of business development and government relations for Cannabis Compliance Inc.
Anand, whose consulting firm provided the government with input on the legislation, said he supports provisions that incentivize people to transition from the illicit to legal market, and which allow B.C. to carry on that process for months after federal legalization.
“I think that the existing dispensaries are going to need more time to transition into the legal system and the B.C. LDB (liquor distribution branch) is going to need time to stock its shelves, so this provision allows them to extend that without criminalizing people that are currently operating dispensaries,” he said.
Cannabis lawyer Kirk Tousaw said he has concerns with how the government plans to warehouse and then distribute cannabis, which he said will quickly degrade product, particularly in flower form. He believes the province will need to revisit this issue but said that, overall, the legislation mostly shows that the government is on the right track.
“It continues to be a very positive sign — both in the legislation and the public comments around it — that the province is well aware of the need to transition the existing marketplace into the legal arena,” he said.
Still, Tousaw said, government continues to treat cannabis in a way that is more restrictive than alcohol, “which is just not empirically sound.”
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