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Cannabis at three: B.C. grows legal industry, furthers safety
Oct. 15, 2021
VICTORIA – The value of B.C.’s legal cannabis sector has more than quadrupled over the three years since Canada legalized non-medical cannabis.
The Province now has the third-highest number of legal cannabis retail stores and second-highest number of federal production licence holders in the country.
“As British Columbia passes the three-year anniversary of non-medical cannabis legalization, we are continuing to develop made-in-B.C. approaches to ensure we have a strong and diverse cannabis sector, while working to keep organized crime out of the industry,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “Legal B.C. cannabis businesses contribute to local economies and generate tax revenues that help pay for the schools, hospitals and services we all rely on.”
B.C. has 375 licensed private retail stores, plus 30 public retail stores under the BC Cannabis Stores brand. A further 57 applications from throughout the province for private stores are approved in principle, as government strives to assess, improve and tighten processing timelines for retail licensees.
To help encourage more B.C. cannabis consumers to shift to the legal market from the illicit, government is launching Buy Legal, a public education ad campaign encouraging people to buy cannabis from provincially authorized cannabis retail stores that offer regulated and tested products. This campaign also emphasizes helping to strengthen local economies and keep profits out of the hands of illegal operators and organized crime. The ads contain a single link to online resources, including a map of legal sellers: https://justice.gov.bc.ca/lcrb/map
From the start, B.C. recognized the importance of cannabis production as a significant economic driver in many rural regions and has worked to ensure small-scale cannabis growers have an opportunity to enter the legal market. Support to date includes the Province funding a pilot project in the Central Kootenay region to help 53 businesses receive licence-application support. Seventeen licence types were issued to 12 client organizations and 62 jobs were created, transitioned or maintained by the end of the program in July 2021.
As well, B.C. is developing programs for direct delivery and farm-gate sales, which will launch in 2022. These programs will help smaller cannabis producers get products to market faster and build brand recognition. As of Oct. 8, 2021, B.C. had a total of 192 federal licence holders, including 55 micro-producers and 13 nurseries.
The Province remains committed to reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples as they move toward self-determination and creating opportunities for Indigenous Peoples to be full partners in the economy, including the cannabis sector. B.C. is also developing an Indigenous shelf-space program to showcase Indigenous cannabis products.
The Province continues to work with the First Nations Leadership Council as federal and provincial cannabis policies evolve, as well as government-to-government with Nations in exploring cannabis-related agreements, such as the one reached with Williams Lake First Nation (see backgrounder).
Information on cannabis regulation in B.C.: https://www.cannabis.gov.bc.ca
Cannabis testing results: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2021PSSG0050-001115
A backgrounder follows.
Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General
Growth-focused measures further legal cannabis sector
British Columbia has taken various educational, enforcement and regulatory steps to protect public safety while fostering responsible growth of the legal cannabis sector since the federal government legalized non-medical cannabis on Oct. 17, 2018.
These measures include the following:
Maximizing opportunities for responsible, authorized and legal retail sale of cannabis
- Government classified cannabis retail and production as essential during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- In 2020, the Province launched a website to help prospective B.C. cannabis producers navigate the federal production licensing process, which has had more than 28,000 visits: www.gov.bc.ca/growlegal
- Also in 2020, in response to requests from cannabis retailers, B.C. removed the requirement that cannabis retail stores (CRSs) be enclosed by non-transparent walls.
- In August 2020, B.C. moved to allow CRSs to sell their products online or by phone for in-store pickup.
- Since July 15, 2021, B.C. has permitted all licensed cannabis retailers to deliver non-medical cannabis products directly to adult consumers at their homes and other locations, giving consumers additional ways to purchase from a legal source in their communities.
- In June 2021, the Province removed the security verification requirement for CRS staff, reducing costs for businesses and government and enabling legal retailers to hire staff faster. Since 2018, security screening completed on more than 7,000 prospective cannabis workers did not identify any significant risk of links to organized crime.
Supporting and advancing Indigenous participation in the sector
- In September 2020, the Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) and the Province entered into a government-to-government agreement. The agreement supports the WLFN’s interest in operating retail cannabis stores that offer a diverse selection of cannabis products from licensed producers across Canada. As well, it enabled a cannabis production facility – currently awaiting federal approvals – that will offer farm-gate sales of its own craft cannabis products.
- In December 2020, Cowichan Tribes entered a one-year agreement that allowed it to continue existing retail cannabis operations and participate in licensed cannabis production. The Province is continuing to work with Cowichan Tribes to institute a permanent agreement.
Curbing gangs and organized crime involvement in cannabis
- Since B.C.’s Community Safety Unit (CSU) became operational and began education and enforcement efforts with unlicensed cannabis retailers, the unit has completed more than 70 inspections involving seizure of cannabis, with a total estimated retail value of approximately $20 million removed from the illicit market.
- To date, 173 unlicensed retailers have either closed or stopped selling cannabis as a direct result of the CSU’s actions.
- As of Oct. 4, 2021, the Province has collected more than $1.2 million in penalties from illegal retailers who chose to continue to operate after initial educational visits from members of the CSU.
- To increase awareness about potential contaminants in illicit cannabis, B.C. co-ordinated testing of 20 dried cannabis samples seized from illegal retailers in Metro Vancouver and released the results in June 2021. Twenty-four distinct pesticides were found in the samples, as well as unacceptable levels of bacteria, fungi, lead and arsenic.
- To promote the purchase of legal cannabis products and help identify provincially licensed stores, B.C. provides an easily recognizable window decal to all non-medical cannabis retail store licensees, free of charge.
- B.C. requires non-medical cannabis retail store licensees to display at least one social-responsibility poster in a prominent location in their establishments. These posters share educational information regarding the responsible consumption of cannabis. B.C. also has a mandatory responsible service training course for retail non-medical cannabis called Selling it Right. This course educates industry members about the responsible sale of cannabis, including preventing minors’ access.
Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General
Connect with the Province of B.C. at: news.gov.bc.ca/connect
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