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Growth-focused measures further legal cannabis sector

British Columbia has taken various educational, enforcement and regulatory steps to protect public safety while fostering responsible growth of the legal cannabis sector since the federal government legalized non-medical cannabis on Oct. 17, 2018.

These measures include the following:

Maximizing opportunities for responsible, authorized and legal retail sale of cannabis

  • Government classified cannabis retail and production as essential during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • In 2020, the Province launched a website to help prospective B.C. cannabis producers navigate the federal production licensing process, which has had more than 28,000 visits:
  • Also in 2020, in response to requests from cannabis retailers, B.C. removed the requirement that cannabis retail stores (CRSs) be enclosed by non-transparent walls.
  • In August 2020, B.C. moved to allow CRSs to sell their products online or by phone for in-store pickup.
  • Since July 15, 2021, B.C. has permitted all licensed cannabis retailers to deliver non-medical cannabis products directly to adult consumers at their homes and other locations, giving consumers additional ways to purchase from a legal source in their communities.
  • In June 2021, the Province removed the security verification requirement for CRS staff, reducing costs for businesses and government and enabling legal retailers to hire staff faster. Since 2018, security screening completed on more than 7,000 prospective cannabis workers did not identify any significant risk of links to organized crime.

Supporting and advancing Indigenous participation in the sector

  • In September 2020, the Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) and the Province entered into a government-to-government agreement. The agreement supports the WLFN’s interest in operating retail cannabis stores that offer a diverse selection of cannabis products from licensed producers across Canada. As well, it enabled a cannabis production facility – currently awaiting federal approvals – that will offer farm-gate sales of its own craft cannabis products.
  • In December 2020, Cowichan Tribes entered a one-year agreement that allowed it to continue existing retail cannabis operations and participate in licensed cannabis production. The Province is continuing to work with Cowichan Tribes to institute a permanent agreement.

Curbing gangs and organized crime involvement in cannabis

  • Since B.C.’s Community Safety Unit (CSU) became operational and began education and enforcement efforts with unlicensed cannabis retailers, the unit has completed more than 70 inspections involving seizure of cannabis, with a total estimated retail value of approximately $20 million removed from the illicit market.
  • To date, 173 unlicensed retailers have either closed or stopped selling cannabis as a direct result of the CSU’s actions.
  • As of Oct. 4, 2021, the Province has collected more than $1.2 million in penalties from illegal retailers who chose to continue to operate after initial educational visits from members of the CSU.

Promoting awareness

  • To increase awareness about potential contaminants in illicit cannabis, B.C. co-ordinated testing of 20 dried cannabis samples seized from illegal retailers in Metro Vancouver and released the results in June 2021. Twenty-four distinct pesticides were found in the samples, as well as unacceptable levels of bacteria, fungi, lead and arsenic.
  • To promote the purchase of legal cannabis products and help identify provincially licensed stores, B.C. provides an easily recognizable window decal to all non-medical cannabis retail store licensees, free of charge.
  • B.C. requires non-medical cannabis retail store licensees to display at least one social-responsibility poster in a prominent location in their establishments. These posters share educational information regarding the responsible consumption of cannabis. B.C. also has a mandatory responsible service training course for retail non-medical cannabis called Selling it Right. This course educates industry members about the responsible sale of cannabis, including preventing minors’ access.