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

Unique treasures to be found at Chilliwack Christmas Craft Market

The 44th annual event is the Chilliwack Community Arts Council’s largest fundraiser

Chilliwack toy drive brings in gifts, money to Ann Davis Transition Society

People dropped by Superstore to donate toys and more for those in need this holiday season

Seven Days in Chilliwack

A list of community events happening in Chilliwack from Nov. 18 to 24

Chilliwack RCMP find chemicals and cannabis extract in illicit lab

Marijuana may be legal but altering it using chemicals violates the Cannabis Act

Chilliwack RCMP seek suspects in rash of poppy donation box thefts

Incidents at four different locations in Sardis in the days leading up to Remembrance Day

Saving salmon: B.C. business man believes hatcheries can help bring back the fish

Tony Allard worked with a central coast First Nation to enhance salmon stocks

High-end B.C. house prices dropping, but no relief at lower levels

But experts say home ownership remains out of reach for many for middle- and lower-income families

Worker killed in collision at B.C. coal mine

Vehicle collision occurred at approximately 10:45 a.m. this morning

UPDATE: Hells Angels on scene after body found in Maple Ridge

Body was discovered beneath the Golden Ears Bridge

Mountie left with ‘significant’ injuries after driver attempts to flee traffic stop

Richmond RCMP are looking for a dark coloured Mercedes Benz

B.C. asking for tips on ‘dirty money’ in horse racing, real estate, luxury cars

Action follows a Peter German report on money laundering in B.C. casinos

Canadian dead more than a week after plane crash in Guyana: Global Affairs

Global Affairs said it couldn’t provide further details on the identity of the Canadian citizen

Children between 6 and 9 eligible for $1,200 RESP grant from province

BC Ministry of Education is reminding residents to apply before the deadline

Victoria spent $30,000 to remove John A. Macdonald statue

Contentious decision sparked controversy, apology from mayor

Most Read