The BC government introduced, on Thursday, recreational marijuana legislation that will guide regulations in the province, as it prepares for the upcoming federal legalization of non-medical marijuana.
Ottawa originally said legalization could occur by July 1, but the current rumblings on Parliament Hill suggest it could be delayed until late summer, or into the fall of 2018.
The government introduced three significant pieces of legislation to accommodate the upcoming legalization of adult-use cannabis; Bill 30 – Cannabis Control and Licensing Act, Bill 31 – Cannabis Distribution Act and Bill 17- Motor Vehicle Amendment Act.
These Bills formalize the details of the proposed framework the BC government initially released in February of 2018, in which the following regulatory decisions made:
Minimum Age of Possession
British Columbia’s minimum age to possess, purchase and consume cannabis will be 19 years old. A minimum age of 19 is consistent with B.C.’s minimum age for alcohol and tobacco and with the age of majority in B.C.
British Columbians of legal age will be able to purchase non-medical cannabis through privately run retail stores or government-operated retail stores and online sales. The BC Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) will operate the public retail stores, and Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB) will be responsible for licensing private stores and monitoring the retail sector. The operating rules governing public and private retail stores will be similar to those currently in place for liquor. In urban areas, licensed retailers will not be able to sell cannabis in the same stores as liquor or tobacco.
The Province recognizes retail access for people in rural areas will require a different approach than those used in urban communities and will establish exceptions for rural non-medical cannabis retail stores, similar to those of rural liquor stores.
This spring, the Province will launch an early registration process for individuals and businesses who are interested in applying for a cannabis retail licence. Information for potential applicants can be found in the B.C. Cannabis Retail Licensing Guide (PDF).
Wholesale Distribution Framework
Like many other provinces, B.C. will have a government-run wholesale distribution model. The LDB will be the wholesale distributor of non-medical cannabis in B.C.
Personal public possession limits
Adults aged 19 and above, will be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of non-medical cannabis in a public place, which aligns with the federal government’s proposed possession limit for adults.
Places of use
B.C. will generally allow adults to use non-medical cannabis in public spaces where tobacco smoking and vaping are permitted. However, to minimize child and youth exposure, smoking and vaping of non-medical cannabis will be banned in areas frequented by children, including community beaches, parks and playgrounds. Use of cannabis, in any form will also be banned for all occupants in vehicles.
Local governments will be able to set additional restrictions, as they do now for tobacco use. In addition, landlords and strata councils will be able to restrict or prohibit non-medical cannabis smoking at tenanted and strata properties.
B.C. will align with the proposed federal legislation and allow adults to grow up to four cannabis plants per household, but the plants must not be visible from public spaces off the property. Home cultivation of non-medical cannabis will be banned in dwellings used as daycares. In addition, landlords and strata councils will be able restrict or prohibit home cultivation.
Drug Impaired Driving
Drug impaired driving will continue to be illegal in B.C. The Province will increase training for law enforcement in this area and toughen provincial regulations to give police more tools to remove drug-impaired drivers from the road and deter drug-affected driving, including:
- B.C. will create a new 90-day Administrative Driving Prohibition (ADP) for drug affected driving
- The current zero tolerance restrictions for the presence of alcohol for drivers in the Graduated Licensing Program (GLP) will be expanded to include zero tolerance for the presence of THC
“The legislation introduced today provides a sound foundation for the regulation and safe implementation of legalized cannabis in British Columbia,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “This marks a major milestone, and puts our province in position to not only be ready for federal cannabis legalization in late summer, but does so in a way that reflects the province’s goals for legalized cannabis that prioritize public health and safety, particularly for our children and youth.”
Farnworth also emphasized that municipalities will have final say on whether retail locations can operate in their community.
“Whether it’s a public store or a private retail store they are all going to have to get the permission of the local government,” said Farnworth. “That element is crucial. All stores whether public or private will have to get approval from local government, and after that they are able to get the provincial license.”
The government said in its news release:
The proposed Cannabis Distribution Act (CDA) will establish the Province’s exclusive jurisdiction over wholesale distribution of cannabis, and provide authority for public retail sales.
The proposed Cannabis Control and Licensing Act (CCLA) establishes provincial control over the sale, supply and possession of non-medical cannabis, and establishes licensing of private cannabis retailers, including registration and training requirements for those who will work in cannabis retail. The act outlines restrictions on the possession, personal cultivation and consumption of cannabis by adults and prohibitions for minors.
In addition, amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) will address drug-affected driving in British Columbia. A first phase of proposed amendments to the MVA will provide police with additional tools to remove drug-affected drivers from the road.
“As I’ve said before, the date set by the federal government for cannabis legalization will just be the beginning. B.C. will monitor implementation and make any necessary adjustments to provincial regulations to ensure our provincial goals are being met,” said Farnworth.
The legislature will now take time to debate and review the proposed pieces of legislation, before they are finalized and passed into law. Provincial implementation timelines are dependent upon the proposed federal legislation receiving royal assent.
In anticipation of federal legalization, the Province will focus on the development of the regulations and supporting policies to prepare for the legalization of non-medical cannabis in British Columbia. Prior to legalization, Government will also launch public awareness and education campaigns related to the health impacts of cannabis use and the risks of drug-affected driving.
Additionally, the Liquor Distribution Branch, B.C.’s wholesale distributor of non-medical cannabis, is expected to open the first government-operated retail store by late summer, and is working to implement an e-commerce solution to offer online sales to the public. The brand identity and logo for BC Cannabis Stores, developed in-house, will be featured on store fronts and within print material. For further details, visit: http://www.bcldbcannabisupdates.com
Until laws change, the use of non-medical cannabis is still illegal in British Columbia.
- The proposed federal Cannabis Act was introduced on April 13, 2017, and is expected to come into force in late summer 2018.
- The proposed federal Cannabis Act will create a strict legal framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale and possession of non-medical cannabis across Canada.
- Federal regulation of edible cannabis products is expected to follow within one year.
- Under the proposed federal act, provinces and territories will regulate distribution and retail of non-medical cannabis, minimum age, public consumption, personal cultivation, possession limits and drug-affected driving in their respective jurisdictions.
To read the proposed legislation, visit: https://www.leg.bc.ca/parliamentary-business/legislation-debates-proceedings/41st-parliament/3rd-session/bills/progress-of-bills
To learn more about B.C.’s legislative process, visit: https://www.crownpub.bc.ca/Product/Details/7665005851_S
To find more detail on B.C.’s non-medical cannabis retail framework, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/employment-business-and-economic-development/business-management/liquor-regulation-licensing/documents/5847_cannabis_privateretailguide_v03.pdf
The draft federal Cannabis Act (Bill C-45) can be found here: http://www.parl.ca/LegisInfo/BillDetails.aspx?billId=8886269
To learn more about the current status of cannabis laws in Canada, and the work being done to legalize and regulate it, visit the Government of Canada’s online resource: www.canada.ca/en/services/policing/justice/legalization-regulation-marijuana.html
By Marijuana.Ca Staff