Blog entry

By David Mitchell

 

Canada is set to join a very short list of countries that has legalized recreational marijuana use. The only other one is Uruguay.  Of course there are a few U.S. states that have legalized pot laws now. The new Canadian law is scheduled to come into force sometime in July 2018, but there’s no guarantee that Canada Day celebrators will be legally smoking the stuff by July 1, 2018.

Canada is set to join a very short list of countries that has legalized recreational marijuana use. The only other one is Uruguay.

Of course there are a few U.S. states that have legalized pot laws now. The new Canadian law is scheduled to come into force sometime in July 2018, but there’s no guarantee that Canada Day celebrators will be legally smoking the stuff by July 1.

Federal versus Provincial Roles

The federal government will have jurisdiction over the production of pot.  Of course they will also have a major say in its taxation, and they play a role in enforcement.  The provinces will be responsible for how pot gets to market.  They will also be responsible for policing who gets access to it, as well as the health and safety issues associated with smoking or consuming pot.

How are we, as Canadians, feeling about legal marijuana?

From a national survey conducted by Dalhousie University and released in September 2017 the University found “that the majority of Canadians (68%) are supportive of legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes, with British Columbians being the most supportive (79%) and people on the Prairies being the least (54%).”

In addition the survey found that “46% of Canadians would try cannabis-infused food products if they became available on the market. 39% would be willing to try it in a restaurant, but only 20% said that they know enough about cooking with marijuana to do it at home. However, 59% worry about the risk that legalizing the use of recreational marijuana poses for children and young adults who will have increased access to it.”

BC Government Response

In BC, the government is diligently working to establish the laws and regulations concerning the possession, sale and policing of legalized recreational pot in this province.  In early February this year they gave the public a snapshot of what the new laws and regs would look like. 

“The legal age of possession will be 19, with adults allowed to possess up to 30 grams of non-medical cannabis.

Other important details include the following:

  • Cannabis will not be allowed inside vehicles (unless in a sealed package or an inaccessible place) and those caught driving while impaired will be given a 90-day prohibition.
  • Adults will be allowed to grow up to four cannabis plants per household, but they may not be visible from public spaces, and landlords and strata councils will have the right to ban cultivation.
  • Smoking and vaping of non-medical cannabis will be banned in beaches, parks, playgrounds and other places "frequented by children," according to the government.”

    Regarding the sales of legalized pot, the government goes on to say, “individuals and businesses will be allowed to begin early registration for retail licences later this spring. All operations will only be allowed to sell cannabis products, except in rural areas.” 

    That last line seems to say that rural pot shops can “diversify” their store offerings to include other products.  This could be good news for rural retailers.  The government goes on to say:

    “There will be no cap on the number of licences, but local governments will have veto power, with "the authority to make local decisions, based on the needs of their communities.  Farnworth (Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General) said it could mean complete bans on marijuana outlets in some municipalities, but it would not impede access because online sales would be permitted — though only for the public retailer.” (CBC News, February 5, 2018)

    A Budding BC Opportunity for the Retail Sector

    Like it or not, marijuana use will soon be legal.  This is a retail sales opportunity.  In today’s world, getting into the retail sector can be daunting, as more and more consumers opt for big box stores and on-line shopping. 

    That won’t be the case across the board with pot retail.  On-line shopping will not be allowed for private retailers and big box stores won’t have a marijuana aisle in their grocery section. 

    Self-contained private retail outlets will exist next to publicly owned retail outlets.  Though it may be unlikely that public outlets will be popping up in every small, rural community.  At least not right away. 

    Private retailers will also have to get a licence from their municipality. And of course publicly owned retailers will be the only ones allowed to sell on-line.

    Some communities are trying to get ahead of these changes by having community discussions and consultations.  Communities need to develop their own bylaws about if and where retail outlets may locate. 

    This new sector needs some creative thinkers, both on the licensing end and the retail side.  There’s definitely a business here and it will be interesting to see what those businesses will look like and how they will operate. 

I guess we can all “put that in our pipes and smoke it.”

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