Legal Marijuana in BC – How is it Going to Work?

Legal Marijuana in B.C. – On February 5, 2018, the B.C. government announced its plan for the distribution of recreational marijuana once it becomes legal later this year.

While the fine print of details, including pricing, is yet to be announced, Solicitor General Mike Farnworth has set out a general model for sales, which will be overseen and sold on a wholesale level by the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch. However, on a retail level, marijuana will be sold through dedicated privately run retail stores, not in liquor stores.  B.C. is expected to begin accepting applications for retail licenses in the spring.

Licensing is expected to be a two-tier process. While the province will consider applications and issue retail licenses, individual municipalities will have the power to decide whether or not to issue business licenses to stores in their communities. Online sales will be permitted regardless of the decisions of the various municipalities, although such sales will only be available through government sources.

As it is with alcohol sales, the legal age for possessing and buying pot will be 19. Unlike alcohol, though, buyers will be limited to the quantity of recreational marijuana that they can possess: 30 grams.

Other details include: retail stores will be restricted to marijuana sales only (except in rural areas); no sampling will be allowed; edibles will not be permitted for sale for at least a year; children will not be allowed to enter stores; marijuana will not be permitted inside cars unless in a sealed bag or otherwise inaccessible; smoking and vaping will not be allowed in public places “frequented by children” like parks or beaches; individuals will be allowed to grow up to 4 marijuana plants per household but those must not be visible from a public place (although landlords and strata councils will have the ability prohibit this altogether).

Further, drivers who are impaired by marijuana will be given a 90-day driving prohibition, although the details of exactly how impairment will be detected have not been announced. (Current methods of testing can detect marijuana in the system long after the effects of impairment have worn off.)

All of these plans may be delayed beyond the current target date for legalization of July 1, 2018. Media reports on February 6, 2018, suggest that legalization is likely to occur three months after Bill C-45 is passed by Parliament and that current delays in its passage by the Senate may mean that the bill may not be passed by May 1, 2018, as anticipated. An official announcement regarding the potential delay is expected later today (February 6).

In the end, the delay may not make a difference to retail sales in B.C, since Mr. Farnworth’s announcement included his expectation that the first retail sales will happen in B.C. sometime in the “late summer”.