Marijuana retail store in Blaine, Wa., just across the B.C. border. (Black Press files)

B.C. VIEWS: Cannabis Day celebration put off until October

Another government monopoly, what could go wrong?

Canada Day 2018 was supposed to be Cannabis Day, as we became the first industrialized country to officially legalize recreational marijuana.

Alas, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s bold vision has once again bumped up against reality, and it will be mid-October beforeprovinces pull together the systems required to take over distribution and regulation.

All Ottawa had to do was pass a law and slap an excise tax of a dollar a gram on recreational sales. B.C. has to create and regulate a production, warehouse and retail store system, enforce an age limit of 19, a public possession limit of 30 grams, a home growing limit of four plants, and step up its existing efforts to control drug-impaired driving.

B.C. has chosen to mirror its alcohol sales system for the new era. The Liquor Distribution Branch will have a wholesale monopoly and open stand-alone “BC Cannabis Stores” staffed by unionized liquor store employees with additional training. But as with liquor retailing, private stores will be allowed to compete, as long as they can get provincial and local approval.

The province is about to experience a reality check too. Walking around downtown Victoria, I see a pot store every couple of blocks in some places. Some have city licences, some don’t. Most pretend to be medical dispensaries, selling buds with nameslike “Bubba God” and “Gorilla Glue” because they’re, you know, medicine.

These dispensaries claim their pot comes from federally licensed medical producers, but that’s often fiction too. B.C. has something that is now called a “craft cannabis” industry that the B.C. government is trying to keep from killing off, while somehow weeding out our world-famous organized crime producers.

Kootenay MLAs are worried that legalization is going to collapse a large part of their local economies, as big greenhouse factories take over. The recently formed B.C. Independent Cannabis Association is predicting there will be a huge shortage of legitimate product, starting the day legalization takes effect. And no one expects the drug gangs to go quietly.

There is still no approved roadside test for pot impairment, although police in B.C. have been given the same 90-day roadside suspension authority they have for drinking and driving. And there is another problem, with the state of the Liquor Distribution Branch.

The government quietly released a report in late June, detailing the struggles of craft beer, cider and spirits producers with the provincial distribution monopoly. The NDP government, like the B.C. Liberals, loves the craft industry like it loves B.C. wineries, but you wouldn’t know it from the way they’re being treated.

Craft cider producers describe the out-of-date system they deal with. Those who produce cider with only B.C. apples are lumped in with the LDB’s “pre-mixed cocktails and coolers” in the “refreshments” category.

“It finds itself categorized with products such as Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Growers and other ‘cooler’-style beverages that are generally made with high levels of sugar, artificial flavouring and the addition of spirits,” craft producers say in the report.

The “refreshments” category comes with a 73 per cent wholesale markup, which is the government’s cut. For a bottle of commercial vodka, by the way, it’s 124 per cent. This tells you why the LDB hasn’t yet comprehended what “craft cider” actually is. It took years of political attention to bring the wholesale markup for craft beer down to 12-14 per cent.

What will the LDB’s wholesale markup be for craft cannabis, or for that matter any cannabis? They’re still working on that, but so far they haven’t figured out they’re killing craft cider.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Surrey getting a new hospital, in Cloverdale

Premier John Horgan said the ‘brand new hospital’ will be built near Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Injured eagle rescued in White Rock: ‘It was the size of a turkey!’

Bald eagle may have gotten into a fight over territory

Four ‘Nutcracker’ shows in Surrey on Royal City company’s 30th-year tour

This year’s cast features more than 70 dancers, including 18 from Surrey

White Rock pier-plank purchasers celebrated

Donors received a certificate Sunday marking their purchase of a pier plank

Delta police searching for Ladner robbery suspect

The incident took place in the 5400-block Ladner Trunk Road shortly before noon on Saturday, Dec. 7

MAP: Christmas light displays in Surrey and beyond

Send us pictures of your National Lampoon-style lit-up homes, nativity scenes or North Pole playlands

Feds not enforcing standards on Hungarian duck imports, B.C. farmer says

‘You have no way of knowing what’s in the bag’

No reports yet of Canadians affected by New Zealand volcano eruption, feds say

Missing and injured included tourists from the U.S., China, Australia, Britain and Malaysia

Vancouver Giants fall to Spokane Chiefs

‘We are just having a tough time scoring right now’

Dance cancelled after Alberta teacher’s climate lesson prompts online threats

School district near Red Deer cancelled annual family dance due to Facebook comments

Don’t expect extra bus service during impending SkyTrain strike, CMBC says

Full SkyTrain shutdown is scheduled to start Tuesday morning

In surprise move, defence won’t call witnesses for accused in Abbotsford school killing

‘Change of instructions’ results in defence closing case without calling evidence

Operation Red Nose Surrey-Langley could close for rest of season due to lack of volunteers

Organizers say they are struggling to keep up with high call numbers and long wait times

Most Read