B.C. private-liquor stores enter fight for a piece of Canada's booming marijuana industry

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      If you can’t beat them, join them.

      B.C.’s private liquor-store owners apparently took that old adage to heart when formulating a response to the threat posed to their industry by Canada’s booming market for recreational marijuana.

      This morning (December 2), the B.C. Private Liquor Store Association (BCPLSA) and the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) announced they have partnered to advocate for the right to sell cannabis.

      “The BCGEU and BCPLSA believe this partnership will help enable a safe, responsible and effective system for recreational marijuana in British Columbia,” reads a media release. “The partnership envisions enabling British Columbians to buy non-medical marijuana throughout age-controlled liquor stores by Christmas of 2016.”

      It goes on to highlight safety concerns related to marijuana and argues that because liquor-store operators have proven they can responsibly manage alcohol sales, they are well-positioned to do the same for cannabis.

      “Just as with alcohol, there are legitimate concerns about access to marijuana by youths. Our stores are an over-19, age-controlled environment and our industry has demonstrated the strongest compliance with identification checks,” said BCGEU president Stephanie Smith quoted in the release.

      “B.C. needs to ensure that non-medical marijuana is retailed in the most socially responsible way possible,” she continues. “Liquor stores provide the most strictly controlled system for accessing a controlled substance, and are best suited for the retailing of non-medical marijuana. We have an effective warehousing, retail and distribution system in place, there is no need to reinvent the wheel.”

      That comment could be interprited as a shot at Vancouver’s burgeoning dispensary industry.

      In June 2015, the City of Vancouver adopted a legal framework for storefronts selling marijuana. It’s estimated there are more than 90 of those shops selling cannabis today. That number is expected to drop as the city applies bylaws that prevent dispensaries from operating in close proximity to schools community centres and the like.

      At the federal level, Liberal prime minister Justin Trudeau recently instructed the Ministry of Justice to consult with the country's provinces and municipalities to draft a plan to legalize marijuana. The government has not released a timeline or indicated how long that process might take.

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