Marijuana Laws in British Columbia: Why marijuana users in BC should be concerned

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As the legalization of recreational use of marijuana is approaching, aka Bill C-45, there are some specific details that government is been defining, one of the most important, where will be sold. As we have explained before, the specific details will be developed by the provinces. So far, all the procedement established to get a license leads to think that it will similar to a private model.  

Current situation in British Columbia

BS Cannabis Stores During past September, the B.C government said they have received around 100 permits to operate private cannabis stores in the province. British Columbia expects to have just one government-operated store, located in Kamloops, open by the time recreational use is legal on Oct. 17th. According to official sources: “It is going to be a gradual process in the sense there will be a few stores ready. Local governments are the ones making the decisions on the kind of retail outlets they want, whether they want a government store or a private store or a mix of both or in some cases, they have indicated they don’t want any retail,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General of British Columbia. “It will take two or three years for the system to mature” added. The site in Kamloops did not require a rezoning application and the province paid the city $5,000 for a business licence, plus an application fee of $1,600. On the other hand, Vancouver established a licensing system for medical marijuana stores in 2015 and recently updated its bylaw to reflect the legalization of recreational cannabis. Some 19 locations currently hold municipal business licences and will need a provincial licence before they can legally sell cannabis.

How is the process to be a private cannabis store in BC?

  • Applicants will have to go through background checks and it’s unclear how many of the current applicants will actually get stores. Until the end of september, there were about 1,000 liquor stores in British Columbia, a combination of private and government-run stores.
  • British Columbia is not anticipating the same sort of number of cannabis stores as liquor stores. Farnworth explained a significant portion of the population uses alcohol while research shows between 20 to 25% of British Columbians have tried or use marijuana regularly. “I don’t expect you will see many cannabis retailers as there are liquor outlets. It will be determined by local governments and the demand from British Columbians,” said Farnworth. “On day one, there will be a few stores open, a few months later, there will be more stores open and three months after that, there will be more stores open.”
  • Farnworth also explained that the B.C. government will have an enforcement branch under the Ministry of Public Safety. The enforcement body will have the ability to seize product from stores operating without a permit and then levy a fine for twice the value of the product seized.
  • Vancouver has set its licence fee at $30,000. Viviana Zanocco, a spokeswoman for the Liquor Distribution Branch, which will operate the government’s cannabis stores, said decisions to pay the fees would be made on a case-by-case basis.
  • The Public Safety Ministry explained in a statement that “Unlicensed retailers may not be shut down overnight,”. “The province anticipates many illegal dispensaries will voluntarily come into compliance with the law by obtaining a retail licence, or shutting down.”
BC Despinary  

Different from other provinces

In British Columbia is the highest number of marijuana’s dispensaries, specially in Victoria and Vancouver. Those dispensaries can apply for permits, but they have to go through the same application process as all potential retailers. In Vancouver, none of the long-standing marijuana shops have received provincial licences to operate, with only two weeks left until legalization. Today, there are 19 pot shops operating with a municipal business licence in Vancouver, including four compassion clubs, while 53 locations hold a development permit. Dozens of others have flouted the bylaw, prompting the city to launch a court case in which a decision has not yet been issued. So far, it’s unclear whether the province will have all the permits processed by Oct. 17, and the province will not immediately start shutting down dispensaries that stay open after legalization.  


There have been also some complaints about how provinces have been managing the process; The president of the Cannabis Commerce Association of Canada, Ian Dawkins, said he expects about a half-dozen private retailers will be able to open their doors in the first month and a half of legalization. But he said that’s still “absolutely not” adequate. To exemplify his complaint, Dawkins stated “Somebody who is in Vernon or Surrey wants to go buy some cannabis. They can’t,” he said. “OK, so I’m going to buy it on a website? I’ve never smelled this cannabis before. I don’t like the idea of it coming in the mail, maybe. I’m not able to have a conversation with the person selling it to me about the effects.” Dawkins criticized the province for moving too slowly on legalization and said it has fundamentally failed to ensure that people currently operating in the black or grey markets will be able to participate come Oct. 17. Despite government’s response, some dispensaries in Vancouver plan to stay open regardless of whether their provincial licence applications are approved. Related to this, the owner of four Weeds Glass and Gifts stores, Don Briere, said his customers include cancer patients and people with severe pain. Closing his doors would force them onto opioids or into the black market, he said. Apparently, due to bureaucracy, Vancouver could go from being Canada’s most pot-friendly city to one of its least. Do you think this process could be faster? how? comment bellow!  

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  1. Pingback: Marijuana Laws in Ontario - WeedSmart

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