In late September, the provincial government of British Columbia announced a five-week public consultation period on the framework for legal, adult-use cannabis.
At that time, Vancouver City Councillor Kerry Jang offered an olive branch of hope for privately-owned dispensaries in the region by stating:
“It was not long ago there was a government monopoly on beer and craft beer was illegal. Now what do we see? We see a huge market for craft beer. We see responsible usage. We see breweries, brewpubs that didn’t exist before. Why not marijuana?”
The end of the consultation period is approaching and there has yet to be any indication of how Canada’s most pot-friendly province intends to sell legal marijuana in July 2018.
“I haven’t heard anything other than they have launched a consultation process,” said Lisa Helps, Mayor of Victoria, in an interview with Marijuana.com.
Helps has been a supporter of privately-owned, government-regulated dispensaries in her region, which happens to be the capital of British Columbia. “We have asked our staff to bring forward some recommendations to council, to give our input that way.”
Although Helps wouldn’t prognosticate the results of the consultation period, she did offer her opinion on how she would like to see the process unfold. “I hope the province decides that there’s room for the little guy,” she said.
“In Victoria, we’ve got an amazing craft brewery community. That’s becoming more and more popular, but they’ve had to carve out a niche from the Molson’s and Labatt’s of the world over the last century. I think there may be a hybrid of government stores and private stores just like there is with liquor, but I can’t anticipate what the province is going to do.”
Of all the developments that may happen in regards to cannabis retail in B.C., Helps wants the regulations to be uniform across the province above all else. “Absolutely most important to me, more than anything, is that the [government] creates a regulatory regime that’s the same across the province,” said Helps. “I hope that the province doesn’t leave it up to municipalities to make their own rules because that will place a huge burden on municipalities.”
Although Helps is clear about her preferences, she was not critical of the recent announcements for a government-controlled monopoly on pot sales in Ontario and New Brunswick. “Just like government liquor stores expanded and allowed private entities to pop up, I think probably that’s the direction that things will eventually go in New Brunswick and Ontario. To a certain degree, it makes sense from a government point of view when you don’t have any municipalities with regulatory regimes in place.”
Although it is highly unlikely British Columbia will announce the end of all privately-owned dispensaries, if that were the case, Mayor Helps would support the provincial government’s ruling. “I would accept the decision. I’ve got way more on my plate, the industry can lobby for itself. Certainly, we have been supportive of the industry but I’ve got affordable housing and transportation to lobby for, I’ve got a lot more municipal issues to [deal with].”
Photo courtesy of Allie Beckett