As British Columbia works towards the federal timeline for legalization of non-medical cannabis in July 2018, the Province continues to set policy direction to meet the needs and expectations of British Columbians.
“As a result of months of engagement, additional research and analysis, we continue to build the Province’s regulatory framework and have set policy direction on other key aspects of how non-medical cannabis will be regulated in B.C.,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “These decisions include safeguards for the retail sales of non-medical cannabis and are driven by our priorities of protecting youth, promoting health and safety, keeping the criminal element out of cannabis and keeping our roads safe.”
The following decisions will inform the development of legislation in preparation for federal legalization of non-medical cannabis in July.
As was announced in December 2017, government is releasing details on the Province’s proposed retail framework. British Columbians of legal age will be able to purchase non-medical cannabis through privately run retail stores or government-operated retail stores and government online sales. B.C.’s Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) will operate a new standalone network of public retail stores and the 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. However, to promote responsible use, licensed retailers will not be able to sell cannabis in the same stores as liquor or tobacco. In urban areas, licensed retailers will only be allowed to sell cannabis and cannabis accessories, and will be prohibited from selling other products, such as food, gas, clothing and lottery.
The B.C. government recognizes that 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. The criteria for determining these rural areas are currently under development.
This spring, the Province will launch an early registration process for individuals and businesses who are interested in applying for a cannabis retail licence. Although B.C. will not cap the number of retail licences available, licences will not be issued without the support of local governments, which will have the authority to make local decisions, based on the needs of their communities.
Additional details on the retail framework, including frequently asked questions for potential applicants, are available at: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/Cannabis_Private_Retail_Licensing_Guide.pdf
Personal public possession limits
Adults aged 19 years and older 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.
Those under the legal age of 19 years will be prohibited from possessing any amount of non-medical cannabis. Additionally, cannabis transported in a motor vehicle will need to be in a sealed package, or inaccessible to vehicle occupants.
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 and vaping 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 day cares. In addition, landlords and strata councils will be able restrict or prohibit home cultivation.
Drug-impaired driving will continue to be illegal and B.C. will increase training for law enforcement in this area. B.C. will also 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; and
- 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 active ingredient in cannabis.
“National legalization of non-medical cannabis represents an historic shift in public policy. This provincial regulatory framework provides a sound foundation to support the provincial goals that prioritize public health and safety,” Farnworth said. “That said, July 2018 is only the beginning of our journey, and these changes will not happen overnight. We fully anticipate all levels of government will need to continue to assess and refine cannabis policy and regulation in the months and years to come.”
In December 2017, the Province announced that British Columbia’s minimum age to possess, purchase and consume non-medical cannabis will be 19 years old, and that the LDB will be the wholesale distributor of non-medical cannabis in B.C.
Government plans to introduce legislation in the spring legislative session to affect these policy decisions. It will also launch a public education campaign to ensure broad public awareness of the provincial rules before they come into force. For more detailed information, please visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/public-safety/cannabis
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 B.C.’s cannabis public engagement, visit: http://engage.gov.bc.ca/BCcannabisregulation/