B.C. sets minimum age of 19 for recreational marijuana and says private businesses can play a role in sales

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      The B.C. government has revealed its first rules for recreational-cannabis sales.

      The minimum age for purchasing marijuana in B.C. will be 19, same as it is for tobacco and alcohol.

      The wholesale distribution of recreational marijuana will be handled by the government’s Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB).

      Details on how sales to individual consumers will occur won’t come until early 2018. But, according to a December 5 release, B.C.'s retail model for cannabis will include "opportunities" both public and private players.

      The release emphasizes that B.C.’s rules for recreational marijuana are taking public feedback into account.

      “Looking at the responses received, it’s clear that British Columbians support the priorities of protecting young people, health and safety, keeping the criminal element out of cannabis and keeping roads safe, which will guide the province in developing B.C.’s regulatory framework for non-medical cannabis,” Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said quoted there.

      “We will continue to consider your opinions as we further develop policy and legislation that is in the best interests of this province, ensuring a made-in-B.C. approach to the legalization of non-medical cannabis that will keep our roads and communities safe, protect young people, and promote public health and safety.”

      In a press conference earlier today, Farnworth clarified that, like B.C.'s current approach to alcohol, the province would take a zero-tolerance approach to posssession for individuals under the age of 19. Young people found in possession of cannabis would be ticketed, but not criminalized. 

      "What we've tried to do is strike a balance between what we've been told in terms of medical evidence, as well as the desire to protect young people and eliminate the black market when it comes to cannabis," he said.

      "We know that the largest consumers of cannabis are young people in that 19 to  30 year-old age group. As a result, if you set it too high, for example, at 25, you're not going to get rid of the black market."

      When a reporter asked if the province was lobbying the federal government for the ability to issue its own licenses to growers who want to produce cannabis in B.C., Farnworth made it clear that there were no plans for a provincial licensing scheme. He did say, however, that he supported the move to license micro production facilities as per the federal government's recently released consultation paper. 

      Although today's announcement indicated plans for a mix of private and public retail opportunities, it did not allude to whether or not liquor stores would be included in the picture.

      "We are still looking at the issue of co-location as to how cannabis in a public or private retail store will be sold, and under what conditions and what terms," Farnworth said.

      As for co-location at the distribution stage, Farnworth said he anticipates that cannabis and alcohol won't be kept in the same facilities.

      The federal government set a deadline of July 2018 for the province’s to draft laws and create systems for the distribution and sales of recreational cannabis.

      In B.C., perhaps the biggest question is whether the provincial government will allow private storefronts, like the dispensaries that have proliferated in Vancouver. Farnworth couldn't clarify whether or not dispensaries that had gone through municipal licensing processes would be guaranteed a spot in the retail framework, maintaining his position from a September 2017 interview with the Straight.

      “Has the sky fallen? No, the sky hasn’t fallen,” he said about the situation in Vancouver since bylaws for marijuana businesses were implemented in 2015. “I think there are people who say the Vancouver model is fine, and then there are others who don’t like the Vancouver model.”