Province releases plans for legalized marijuana

By Greg Fry
February 5, 2018 - 1:27pm Updated: February 5, 2018 - 3:07pm

KAMLOOPS — The B.C. government released its long-awaited rules surrounding the legalization of marijuana Monday.

The policy direction is in response to the federal government's plan to legalize non-medical cannabis this coming July.

When it comes to retail, the Province says British Columbians of legal age (19) will be able to buy it through privately-run retail stores or government-operated retail stores and government online sales.

The BC Liquor Distribution Branch will operate a new standalone network of public retail stores and the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch will be responsible for licensing private stores and monitoring the retail sector.

To promote "responsible use," the Province says licensed retailers won't be able to sell cannabis in the same stores as liquor or tobacco. In urban areas, licensed retailers will only be allowed to sell cannabis and cannabis accessories. In rural areas, a different approach will be used. The province says the criteria for rural areas is currently under development.

This spring, the Province will start an early registration process for people and businesses who are interested in appying for a cannabis retail license. The number of retail licenses won't be capped but they won't be issued without the support of local governments.

"The BC Liquor Distribution Branch is aiming to open the first government operated retail store by late summer," said Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth. "And we also expect the first privately licensed retail stores to be in operation by late summer subject to having met any local government requirements."

When it comes to personal public possession limits, the Province says adults aged 19 and older will be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of non-medical cannabis in a public place. Those under 19 years of age will be prohibited from possessing any cannabis.

As for where cannabis use will be permitted, Victoria says it will "generally allow adults to use non-medical cannabis in public spaces where tobacco smoking and vaping are permitted." However to minimize child and youth exposure, smoking and vaping of cannabis will be banned in areas frequented by children including community beaches, parks and playgrounds. Use of cannabis in any form will be banned for all occupants in vehicles.

Local goverments will be able to set addtional restrictions as they do now for tobacco use. Landlords and strata councils will be able to restrict or prohibit cannabis smoking and vaping at tenanted and strata properties.

When it comes to personal cultivation, adults will be able to grow up to four cannabis plants per household, but the plants must not be visible from public spaces off the property.

As for drug-impaired driving, as mentioned, use of cannabis will remain prohibited and B.C. will increase training for law enforcement in this area. 

B.C. will also create a new 90-day administrative driving prohibition for drug-affected driving and the current zero-tolerance restrictions for the presence of alcohol for drivers in the Graduated Licensing Program will be expanded to include zero tolerance for the presence of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis.

The rules follow months of engagement, research and analysis in B.C.

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