Liquor store operators say they should be authorized to sell recreational marijuana when it's legalized in Canada.

Liquor store operators say they should be authorized to sell recreational marijuana when it's legalized in Canada.

Liquor stores aim to sell marijuana

Private, government stores 'best suited' to become weed dealers, say union, store owners

Liquor stores – both private- and government-run outlets – should be authorized to sell recreational marijuana when the federal government delivers on its election promise to bring in a new regulated system.

That’s the pitch coming from the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, which represents government store workers, and the B.C. Private Liquor Store Association.

The two groups, normally competitors, joined forces Wednesday to argue their stores are well qualified to responsibly handle legalized marijuana, alongside beer, wine and spirits.

“We haven’t been aligned in the past  but we are aligned on this issue,” said Damian Kettlewell of the private stores association.

“We’re suggesting that we have the experience and the knowledge and, eventually, the product training to sell this product in liquor stores.”

He emphasized the aim is to serve as the retailers for recreational pot only, and not compete with existing medical marijuana providers.

Liquor stores are already required to check ID to ensure patrons are over 19 to prevent alcohol purchases by youth, said BCGEU president Stephanie Smith.

“Liquor stores provide the most strictly controlled system for accessing a controlled substance, and are best suited for the retailing of non-medical marijuana,” she said.

“We have an effective warehousing, retail and distribution system in place. There is no need to reinvent the wheel.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has so far set no timeline to legalize and regulate non-medical marijuana.

The City of Vancouver has been developing its own licensing system to authorize a limited number of marijuana storefronts and some other municipalities have considered a similar approach.

Asked if the new partnership is an attempt to head off yet more pot stores springing up and gaining local government approval, Kettlewell said there’s no need to create a new government bureaucracy to govern pot sales.

“There are some dry communities in B.C. that do not sell liquor,” Kettlewell said. “If there’s a municipality out there that does not want the sale of non-medical marijuana in their community, we’d fully respect that.”

He noted provincial rules currently require a minimum one-kilometre separation between private liquor stores and he’d expect municipalities that permit recreational pot would in most cases apply zoning rules that could further restrict locations, potentially with minimum buffers from schools and parks.

Don Briere, owner of the 19-store Weeds Glass and Gifts chain of marijuana storefronts, said he’s not worried about liquor outlets wresting away the burgeoning business.

“We are responsible,” he said. “We have many, many years of experience. They have none. If they want to jump on the bandwagon, you know what? It’s free enterprise. They can get in line behind the people who already have 20, 30 years in the industry.”

He argued retail sales of pot and booze should not happen in the same outlet.

“Alcohol and cannabis do not mix,” Briere said. “People get whacked out enough as it is. You get a drunk person buying cannabis and they smoke that – it’s like mixing all your prescription pills and drinking.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Fernie saw 20 new positive cases between Jan. 10 and Jan. 16 according to the BCCDC. (Image courtesy of BCCDC)
BCCDC reports 20 new COVID cases in Fernie health area last week

20 new cases were recorded between Jan. 10 and Jan. 16

City of Fernie city hall. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Speed boards proposed for Fernie

Mayor Qualizza floated the idea to councillors at the most recent Committee of the Whole

Environmental groups are calling for a federal impact assessment for a proposed coal mine expansion in the Elk Valley. Phil McLachlan photo.
Castle Project now known as FRO-X

Teck said the previous name was causing confusion

The Fernie Chamber of Commerce hosted this year's virtual 2020 Business Awards. (File Photo)
If there’s a risk, IH will take the lead: Fernie Chamber

Rumours about businesses and COVID numbers are doing damage to sectors already hurting according to Brad Parsell

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Interior Health has declared the Cariboo Chilcotin a community cluster. (Angie Mindus photo)
Interior Health declares Cariboo Chilcotin region a COVID-19 cluster, 215 cases since Jan. 1

Most cases are related to transmission at social events and gatherings in Williams Lake

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Vernon's Noric House long-term care facility is dealing with an influenza outbreak amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (File photo)
Two more deaths at Vernon care home

Noric House case numbers remain steady, but death toll rises

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

Throughout December, RCMP conducted CounterAttack road checks as police worked to keep roads free of impaired drivers. (BLACK PRESS file photo)
‘You can’t make this stuff up’: Stories from the B.C. CounterAttack campaign

Amusing, yes, but a reminder impaired driving affects ability to drive and to make good decisions

Most Read