BC Government Clears the Smoke on Recreational Marijuana Regulation

On December 5, 2017 the BC government gave the first concrete indication of its approach to the regulation of recreational marijuana, joining Ontario, New Brunswick, Manitoba and Ontario as the only provinces to announce an outline of their regulatory plans for the sale and distribution of recreational marijuana once it becomes legal on July 1, 2018.

The BC government marijuana announcement describes three key features of its regulatory plans:

  1. the minimum age to possess, purchase and consume marijuana will be 19 years;
  2. BC will use a government-run wholesale distribution model; and
  3. BC will establish a retail model that includes private and public retail opportunities. Further details on this model will be announced in early 2018.

BC’s hybrid approach to the retail sale of marijuana, through public and private retail spaces, places it in a unique position amongst provinces who have announced their plans to date. Both Ontario and New Brunswick have opted for a strictly government-run distribution and sale system, whereas Manitoba has opted for government-run distribution system to private retailers.

BC’s plans will provide opportunities for private retailers looking to enter the retail distribution of marijuana and for existing dispensary operators looking to transition into the new regulatory model. The nature of these opportunities remains to be seen and will be shaped by the design of BC’s regulatory framework, which will be announced over the coming months. We will be monitoring the government’s announcements closely.