Province outlines retail, possession rules for legal weed 

First government retail stores to open late summer

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF THE PROVINCE OF BRITISH COLUMBIA. - THROUGH THE WEEDS Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth announces new rules related to cannabis legalization in Victoria on Monday, Feb. 5.
  • Photo courtesy of the Province of British Columbia.
  • THROUGH THE WEEDS Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth announces new rules related to cannabis legalization in Victoria on Monday, Feb. 5.

The rules around legalized recreational cannabis in B.C. are starting to come into focus.

On Monday, Feb. 6, Minister for Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth announced key policy decisions around retail, possession limits, places of use, personal cultivation and drug-impaired driving.

Adults in B.C. (19 and up) will be able to buy cannabis from standalone government and private stores and possess up to 30 grams in public.

The province will generally allow adults to use cannabis in public spaces where tobacco or vaping are permitted, with the exception of areas frequented by kids (like parks, community beaches and playgrounds).

Using cannabis in vehicles will also be banned, and the province plans to toughen regulations around drug-impaired driving, including a new 90-day administrative driving prohibition and expansion of zero-tolerance restrictions for new drivers to include the presence of THC.

B.C. residents will be able to grow up to four cannabis plants per household, so long as the plants are not visible from public spaces off the property. Landlords and strata councils will also be able to prohibit home growing.

On the retail side, the province is launching a pre-registration for those interested in obtaining a non-medical cannabis retail license ahead of legalization coming into full force this July.

B.C.'s Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) will operate a new standalone network of public retail stores, and the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch will be in charge of licensing private stores.

Liquor stores, however, will not be permitted to sell cannabis.

The LDB is aiming to open the first government-operated retail store by late summer.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) recently passed an amendment to its zoning bylaw to bring it in line with the new federal regulations, and staff will be looking at the new provincial rules to see what direction to head next, said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, but the full scope of legal weed in Whistler is still not clear at this point.

The province has indicated that local governments are free to limit the number and locations of cannabis retail stores within their jurisdictions (though residents would still be able to purchase cannabis online).

"We are getting a ton of requests, as you can probably appreciate, and my personal view is we don't want a dispensary every second store front," Wilhelm-Morden said.

"We want to do this thoughtfully... if there is a demand for it, and I'm sure there will be, we want to have the appropriate response. I am very interested to hear what the community has to say about this."

But there is still work to be done before the RMOW sets up any community engagement process, the mayor added.

The RMOW also has an updated smoking bylaw in the works, which will prohibit smoking and vaping on the Village Stroll, though it's not clear if the new bylaw will be tabled before cannabis becomes legal this summer.

"We do have a smoking prohibition in our parks and beaches and so on, so people won't be able to light up when they're sitting at Rainbow Beach," Wilhelm-Morden said.

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