The government of British Columbia is unlikely to move in favour of recreational marijuana anytime soon. However, there is some chatter suggesting that could change if Justin Trudeau and the Liberals were to take power in Ottawa come the October federal election.
According to a July 31 report in the Globe and Mail, a spokesperson for the province’s Ministry of Health told the paper there are “no ‘plans to recommend or implement provincial legislation around this topic’.”
The interview with the Globe’s Mike Hager was in response to a series of emails obtained via freedom of information legislation.
That correspondence includes an email from Brian Emerson, a medical consultant with the Health Ministry, in which he suggests B.C. could legalize recreational marijuana.
“Given the emerging legalized markets in Alaska, Washington State, Oregon and likely soon in California it might make sense for B.C. to join that pack to complete the West Coast arrangement,” Emerson wrote in April 2015.
That month, the City of Vancouver proposed official rules for the more than 80 marijuana dispensaries that were illegally operating in the city at that time. (Today, it is believed there are around 100, though many of these will soon be forced to relocate or close in accordance with new zoning bylaws the city passed on June 24.)
Emerson’s email was addressed to provincial health officer Perry Kendall and Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) chief medical officer Patricia Daly, among others.
It goes on to propose B.C. could file a submission with Health Canada for an exemption from section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (the same procedure VCH goes through every year with Insite). Emerson suggested the province could create a system where it monopolized the sale of marijuana via government storefronts established in “accepting communities”.
John Carsley, a VCH medical health officer who also appears in the email thread, wrote he didn’t think B.C. could legalize marijuana before there was a change in government in Ottawa.
Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has long opposed any loosening of laws around cannabis while Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has promised to legalize recreational marijuana if elected in the federal election scheduled for October 19. The NDP has said it wants to study the issue.
Daly told the Globe “the solution has to be a federal” one.
Kendall said the same, but noted there is considerable support for legalization among health-care practitioners across B.C.