It has become clearer how the province of British Columbia intends to handle distribution of recreational marijuana once its legalized next July.
The province has announced it would set the legal minimum age at 19, in line with alcohol and tobacco.
“We know the largest consumers of cannabis are young people in that 19- to 30-year-old age range,” said Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth. “If you set [the age] to high, at say 25, you’re not going to be able to get rid of that black market.”
Also like alcohol, wholesale distribution of recreational pot will be handled by the BC Liquor Distribution Branch.
The drug will also be sold by both public and private retailers, although Farnworth said the government hadn’t yet decided whether or not they would place marijuana on the same shelf as booze.
Local business person Tamara Duggan, who owns Tamarack Dispensaries in Marysville says she is somewhat dismayed by what has been announced so far, but will wait and see as more detail rolls out.
“I don’t necessarily believe going through the liquor distribution system is the most appropriate way to handle this,” she said. “But I’m not surprised, given the NDP government’s penchant for relationships with unions.”
She’s not surprised, she says, that the government is going that way.
“I am reassured they say private and public stores will be allowed, but I do have reservations about how it will all work.”
Duggan points out that there hasn’t been a lot of information around the dispensing of medical marijuana, which is her business.
“I am not in the adult recreational market. I am a medical marijuana dispenser. None of the legislation is looking at medical, so certain aspects are not being addressed. Whether the new rules will affect me directly, I’d say probably not. They are not looking at the medical side.”
She says she is definitely in favour of keeping the age at 19.
That’s the age of majority. There’s no reason to offer it to anyone younger.”
Duggan says it is unlikely she would go into the recreational market should it be allowed.
“My vision and mandate personally, has been on the medical side.”
In any event, there are many more details to come.
“I think the plan right now is very sketchy when it comes to specifics. There will be a whole lot more regulations and legislation and policy coming down.”
She is cautiously optimistic, she says, that her business will remain viable.
“We will proceed as normal. I’m not losing sleep over it, but I’m not making any changes either. As it affects me, I’ll roll with it. I’m not opposed to what they are doing, but I just know the government has their work cut out for them.”
The federal bill to legalize and regulate marijuana, introduced in early 2017, received final approval in the House of Commons last week.
It now moves to the Senate, where it is likely to face heavy opposition from Conservatives who argue legalization should be delayed because the process is being rushed.
Tamarack Dispensaries have been in business in Kimberley since 2015 and received a business licence from the City of Kimberley at that time, the first one issued in B.C.