In a radio interview this morning, Premier John Horgan revealed some of his thoughts on British Columbia's developing cannabis distribution framework.
His 15-minute discussion with CKNW's John McComb covered a number of topics, but it wasn't until the very end of the interview that McComb broached the subject of cannabis legalization.
Without revealing too much, Horgan presented a balanced take on what provincial policy makers will be developing in the coming months. Given the numerous adverse responses to Ontario's proposed framework, what Horgan had to say was reassuring.
1. He's not opposed to including existing operators.
Horgan said he plans to put a "system in place that benefits those who want to participate as entrepreneurs," which would involve consultation with city councils. Horgan also talked about the sheer number of dispensaries in Vancouver and Victoria, where muncipal bylaws allow cannabis dispensaries to operate in a "grey" area. "There's just been an explosion of private dispensaries, on almost every street corner in some cases," he said. "That's not going to work, and the market will sort some of that stuff out." This statement could suggest that a) Horgan likely has no intention of shuttering these dispensaries himself, and b) that he's open to the idea of a more inclusive market.
2. He doesn't seem to be interested in implementing a rigid government-run framework.
Horgan did say a system like Ontario's was an "option", but he also pointed out that dispensaries "have proven to be an effective way of attracting attention". While this doesn't explicitly indicate whether or not he plans to include grey market dispensaries in the province's framework, it does show that Horgan realizes that dispensaries, however illicit they may be, play an important role. He alluded to the potential use of pharmacies, but only for the distribution of medical cannabis.
3. He's not (just) in it for the tax revenue.
While discussing the range of options for distribution, Horgan said he was eager to get started with public consulation on the subject. "The time is long past waiting,"he said. "We need to make sure we're squishing out the black market and that means not setting the price point too high. You've heard people say this is a great windfall of tax revenue, but that's not the case in Washington and Oregon. If you set the price too high then the black market continues to exist and the regulations won't matter."
4. He wants to be "realistic" about people who choose to grow at home.
Many politicians and particularly police chiefs have expressed their concerns toward the federal government's intention to allow people to grow cannabis at home. Horgan took a different approach, telling McComb, "It's a plant, after all. People are growing plants in their basement right now, or in their backyard, so if we're going to regulate this we need to be realistic about how we're going to manage that."
5. British Columbia will be ready for legalization in July 2018.
While some premiers have appealled to the federal government for more time to create a provincial framework, Horgan said his government wouldn't be making similar requests. "I don't think we need to do that," he said. "B.C. is a mature jurisdiction, I'd like to say, when it comes to marijuana. As everyone knows, there's a lot of marijuana in B.C. and there has been for a long time... I think we can get on this as quickly as possible and I fully intend to meet the July 1 deadline, but there's a lot of people to talk to."
(You can listen to the interview below, with the conversation on marijuana beginning at 9:27.)More