B.C. ELECTION: B.C. Parties Lack Solid Proposal for Regulating Legal Cannabis
Opinions / May 9, 2017
Local dispensaries unsure of how their business will change next year
Braden Klassen, Contributor
The federal government revealed their plans to legalise the possession of cannabis for recreational purposes on April 13. In the weeks leading up to the provincial election, the major parties have all tossed out suggestions as to how they might regulate the sale of cannabis following the legalisation, but none of them have tabled a formal proposal or framework.
“My number one concern is making sure we keep marijuana out of the hands of kids and its distribution isn’t in neighbourhoods that don’t want it and isn’t near schools,” said Premier Christy Clark in a report published by The Vancouver Sun.
The same report stated that John Horgan of the NDP and Andrew Weaver of the Green Party would advocate for public liquor stores and pharmacies to dispense cannabis.
It is uncertain how these models might affect existing cannabis dispensaries in B.C..
“In my opinion, I don’t think it would be a concern for our business,” says Julie Nguyen, the general manager at Aura Health Studio & Dispensary in Burnaby. “But I also don’t think that that would be the right model. If anyone really knows, usually drugs and alcohol don’t mix very well, particularly alcohol and cannabis together. It doesn’t always create a positive experience.”
The parties also have not stated if cannabis would be taxed in the same way as alcohol or cigarettes in B.C..
“We know that they’re going to have to set something up where it can be taxed,” says Nguyen. “But there are arguments for and against, and I really can’t comment on how that’s going to affect us because we have no idea where it’s going to go.”
She continues, “We’re already working with a regulatory group called CAMCD, the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries, and we are establishing guidelines on how products should be tested and what kind of testing needs to be done and what are the thresholds before we deem a product to be safe for the market. So most definitely, we’ll adapt to any new regulations that do come out, because we want to make sure that we are keeping patient safety first.”
CAMCD has a list of criteria called Required Organizational Practices that dispensaries need to adhere to if they wish to become members of the association. The list includes points like assurance of product quality control and verifying that the patients have reached the age of majority and have “documentation demonstrating a diagnosis and related symptoms for which cannabis has well-documented potential medical applications.”
The federal government has set the minimum age limit for purchasing cannabis for medical or recreational use at 18 years old, but will leave it up to the provinces to decide whether or not to raise that limit.
Nguyen’s dispensary has a business license and has met the city’s guidelines, but many others that are not in compliance with the city’s demands will likely be affected by government regulations over the next year.
“We’ve yet to see any action be taken for those dispensaries to be removed,” says Liberal MLA Mary Polak. “We are going to have to make sure as a province that we give enough authority to local governments so that we support them in whatever bylaw making they need to do.”