Merritt city council weighs in on provincial pot rules

By on December 6, 2017
The B.C. government released preliminary regulations for the sale of legal marijuana, which is expected to begin next year. (Doug Menuez/Thinkstock).

 

A mix of private and public retail opportunities and government-run wholesale distribution were part of the first decisions regulating non-medical marijuana released by the B.C. NDP government Tuesday.

In addition, the minimum age to possess, purchase and use cannabis has been set at 19 while the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch was announced as the wholesale distributor of marijuana in the province after a month-long of public engagement process.

The government didn’t specify what those retail “opportunities” will be or whether selling marijuana privately will be decided via an auction — as the previous B.C. Liberal government conducted for VQA wine licences — but more information on how retail sale of marijuana will work is expected to be released next year.

Not in support of legalizing recreational marijuana use himself, Merritt Mayor Neil Menard said the city needs to tread carefully when it comes to the announced retail model of both private and public retailers.

“We need to be very, very careful [about] who they are and where they are located throughout the city,” said Menard.

Menard agreed with the decision to have the legal age mirror the legal drinking age in B.C.

“The 19-year age — that makes sense because why would it be any different,”said Menard.

Merritt councillor Dave Baker, who attended a meeting on legalized marijuana at this year’s Union of BC Municipalities conference, also said he thinks the legal age of 19 is a good idea.

“The distribution I think is a good idea, through the BC Liquor Branch because it’s easy to regulate for them,” said Baker. “Hopefully that will make pricing a little bit easier and simpler for people as well.”

He added that he thinks the number of outlets selling marijuana needs to be kept in check.

“I’m guessing there’s more people that would drink than smoke marijuana, so I think they should limit they amount of retail outlets that you can purchase marijuana at,” said Baker. “How you would do that per capita, I’m not too too sure.”

Baker said he thinks two marijuana dispensaries would be sufficient for a town the size of Merritt.

He also said Merritt needs to make sure it receives it’s fair share of taxation from pot sales.

“Obviously we have to go after something, because along with legalizing it you’re bringing up more health problems, you’re bringing up more social problems, so we’re going to have to have some kind of tax base to fight that with,” said Baker.

More decisions to come

The proposed federal tax scheme announced last month calls for an excise tax on marijuana of either $1 per gram or 10 per cent of the producer’s price — whichever is higher — with sales tax added on top of that.

Revenues are to be divided 50/50 between the federal government and the provinces, but it’s not clear what — if any — share the municipalities would have at this point.

Menard said he believes marijuana is a gateway drug, given his experience working in alcohol and drug assistance programs for employees and families with the International Woodworkers of America.

“Nobody can convince me that marijuana isn’t the first step to a lot stronger and more potent drug use,” said Menard.

With the federal government set to legalize recreational marijuana use next July, the provincial government opened up a 36-day consultation process.

Input from 48,951 British Columbians was collected as well as submissions from 141 local and Indigenous governments and other interested stakeholders.

“It’s clear that British Columbians support the priorities of protecting young people, health and safety, keeping the criminal element out of cannabis and keeping roads safe, which will guide the province in developing B.C.’s regulatory framework for non-medical cannabis,” said Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth in a press release.

From Sept. 25 to Nov. 1, 2017, the public and stakeholders were asked to share their input and expertise on a range of issues related to the regulation of non-medical cannabis in B.C., including minimum age, personal possession, public consumption, drug-impaired driving, personal cultivation, wholesale distribution and retail models.

B.C. still has a number of key decisions to make as it prepares for the legalization of cannabis, which will be informed by the feedback collected.

One Comment

  1. Darrell Texmo

    December 7, 2017 at 2:47 am

    Mayor Menard,
    Your draconian views on cannabis do not reflect what the people have voted for. Please do your job to make the transition as seamless as possible without undue bias.

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