Marijuana Legalization in Canada – Who Will Distribute Marijuana in BC?

As British Columbia liquor license consultants, Rising Tide Consultants is closely watching the discussion (and Liberal government actions) on marijuana legalization in Canada with great interest. Currently, we have more questions than answers, including who will distribute marijuana in BC.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged to legalize marijuana in Canada.  Marijuana legalization is amongst many commitments detailed on the Liberal party website. Not only was it discussed during the Federal election campaign, the PM and his Liberal party seem poised to begin the complicated and likely lengthy process in the near future.

“We will remove marijuana consumption and incidental possession from the Criminal Code” — Liberal Party marijuana platform web page.

The statement is unequivocal. Details of such major Criminal Code changes have ramifications that reverberate across all sectors of our society and those details are not yet in focus. The broad strokes are there, though:

“We will create a federal/provincial/territorial task force, and with input from experts in public health, substance abuse, and law enforcement, will design a new system of strict marijuana sales and distribution, with appropriate federal and provincial excise taxes applied.”

A mandate letter issued by the PM’s office to Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould in mid-November 2015, stated the government’s expectations of the Justice Minister to deliver on her top priorities, including: “Working with the Ministers of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and Health, create a federal-provincial-territorial process that will lead to the legalization and regulation of marijuana.”

With a decisive Federal election campaign victory, a majority government and 65% of Canadians supporting marijuana legalization, the Liberals, it seems, are in a good position to make the priority of marijuana legalization in Canada a reality…if not slowly.

Many Questions About Legalization and Distribution of Marijuana in BC

On the minds of BC liquor license consultants and licensees is who will control marijuana sales in BC.

Questions about marijuana sales and distribution include:

  • Will it be legal to grow marijuana in your own home for your own consumption?
  • Will provincial governments control the sale and distribution of marijuana?
  • Who will regulate and control marijuana edibles?
  • Will marijuana be sold only in government liquor stores, or a combination of government liquor stores and private retail liquor stores?

Who Will Distribute and Sell Marijuana in BC?

Prime Minister Trudeau has said this about marijuana sales: “At this point, I don’t think corner stores necessarily are rigorous enough at checking ID to make me comfortable with that as an option” (read more at CTV news).  Though the PM’s opinions may only have minor influence on the laws and regulation put in place, it does seem that the current provincially-controlled public distribution of tobacco and alcohol are a good fit for marijuana. If the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) and BC Private Liquor Store Association (BCPLSA) have any influence, BC marijuana sales will occur within those existing channels.

In December, 2015, BCGEU and BCPLSA held a news conference announcing that they had joined ranks, and are making the recommendation that “marijuana be distributed in B.C. through existing LDB warehouses, and that legalized marijuana be sold in both public and private liquor stores.”

The alliance, calling itself “Responsible Marijuana Retail Alliance of BC” has stated that it would like to see marijuana sales in BC liquor stores by Christmas of 2016.

Summary

While it’s far too early to know the how legal marijuana will affect BC, there is little doubt that the complex process will be lengthy, involving great debate within federal, provincial and municipal governments. Rising Tide Consultants will continue monitoring the news and provide updates about this issue.