British Columbia's long-awaited cannabis bill has finally been announced.
This morning (April 26), Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth introduced Bill 31, The Cannabis Distribution Act, in the Legislative Assembly.
"The legislation introduced today provides a sound foundation for the regulation and implementation of legalized cannabis in British Columbia," he said.
"This marks a major milestone, and puts our province in position to not only be ready for federal cannabis legalization in late summer, but does so in a way that reflects the province's goals for legalized cannabis that prioritize public health and safety, particularly for our children and youth."
The bill will give the province full control of cannabis distribution and authority of over retail sales through the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB).
An additional piece of legislation, the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act, asserts provincial control over sale, supply, and possession of recreational cannabis while establishing a licensing regime for private cannabis retailers.
It also includes provisions on registration and training requirements for employees in the cannabis retail space, and notes restrictions on possession, personal cultivation, and consumption.
According to a news release from the Ministry of Safety, the act includes "an extensive compliance and enforcement regime to ensure legalization of non-medical cannabis protects children and youth, prioritizes public health and safety, keeps cannabis out of the hands of criminals and keeps roads safe." In an effort to eliminate black market sellers, it will also establish a new community safety unit.
Along with the introduction of the two new bills, the Motor Vehicle Act will be amended to address drug-impaired driving.
In his announcement, the minister indicated that the legislation will be subject to change.
"As I've said before, the date set by the federal government for cannabis legalization will be just the beginning. B.C. will monitor implementation and make any necessary adjustments to provincial regulations to ensure our provincial goals are being met," he said.
Now that the provincial bills have been introduced and motions for second readings passed, the legislation will be debated and reviewed before being passed into law. When the bill will be implemented depends entirely on how quickly the federal Cannabis Act receives royal assent.
Public education and awareness campaigns "related to the health impacts of cannabis use and the risks of drug-affected driving" will also be part of the province's legislation.
As the province has opened the door to both public and private retailers, the ministry has said B.C.'s first government-operated retail store should be open to the public by late summer. It's also working to develop an online portal so that British Columbians can buy cannabis online, which will likely be ready around the same time. It will be the only online cannabis retailer in the province.
Not unlike the already-established name and logo used by the LDB for public liquor stores in B.C., the government-operated cannabis stores will operate under the brand BC Cannabis Stores.
"Developed in-house, the brand will be used as the LDB creates a new and separate business operation to support the wholesale distribution and sale of non-medical cannabis," reads an additional news release from B.C.'s attorney general.
Once open to the public, consumers will be permitted to purchase a maximum of 30 grams of dried cannabis (or the equivalent in oil form) from retail stores.