B.C.’s “community safety unit” and police raid an unlicensed cannabis store in Sooke, Oct. 27, 2019. Since legalization, enforcement has focused on dispensaries, not traditional street and delivery sellers. (Tim Collins/Sooke News Mirror)

Cannabis retailers call for change in B.C.’s legal sales regime

Online purchase and delivery monopoly exploited by black market in COVID-19 pandemic

A national cannabis retailers group has persuaded the B.C. government to make legal stores safer, and now it wants to level the playing field with black market marijuana sellers who can deliver to their customers.

The Association of Canadian Cannabis Retailers (ACCRES) first called in January for a change to B.C. regulation requiring opaque or covered windows for retailers, similar to federal tobacco legislation designed to keep any glimpse of products or brands from those under 19. The move demonstrates the law-enforcement focus of federal and provincial marijuana regimes, with unintended consequences that may increase risk of crime.

“By forcing retailers to opaque their windows, the government of B.C. has created a situation where retailers are at elevated risk of assault and robbery due to the limited lines of sight, and law enforcement’s ability to respond is equally curtailed,” ACCRES said in a March submission to the provinces’ Cannabis Regulation Branch.

The group cited assault and robbery attempts at member stores during the first year of legalization, and recommendations of the Victoria and Vancouver police as they shut down illegal dispensaries for non-compliance with licences and rules. B.C.’s “community safety unit” was created to help police bring order to the recreational market after federal legalization in October 2018.

Attorney General David Eby announced the window covering change on June 18, retaining strict rules against any product or brand viewing, inside and outside stores. Health Canada’s tobacco-style packaging and brand restrictions are another factor in illegal sellers holding onto the majority of the Canadian recreational market, particularly in B.C.

Public health restrictions on movement in the COVID-19 pandemic have magnified another unintended consequence. With police enforcement focused on unlicensed retail stores, and a strict provincial monopoly for legal online ordering and delivery, an industry association says the traditional phone-and-drop-off method of street drug sales is appealing to more people.

RELATED: No surge in pandemic pot sales at B.C.’s legal stores

RELATED: B.C. First Nation plans ‘farm-to-gate’ on reserve land

RELATED: B.C. allows retailers windows, imposes staff training

In a letter to B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, ACCRES argues that and online age verification and sales tracking solutions are already available, and trained store staff can provide no-contact deliveries as well as the online monopoly using Canada Post.

“Direct delivery is currently available to the residents of Saskatchewan and Ontario via provincially licensed retailers,” the letter states. “ACCRES proposes that these existing regulations be adapted for the B.C. sector, as they represent the latest evolution of best practices during the COVID-19 health emergency.”

With Premier John Horgan’s declared goal of making B.C. “craft cannabis” the new craft beer, the B.C. government is examining “farm-to-gate” sales as it has with other agricultural products as well as .

One producer already planning to sell from the farm is Sugar Cane Cannabis, a project of the Williams Lake First Nation. On reserve land inside the city limits, the project isn’t subject to municipal licensing and the jurisdiction of the province is unclear as Indigenous self-government expands in B.C.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislaturecannabis

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

FILE - Nathan Cullen speaks to media in Smithers, B.C., Friday, February 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
More calls come in for Cullen’s removal as NDP candidate

Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs demand Cullen’s removal. Ellis says, There’s no place in B.C. for racism

BC Liberal Party candidate for the North Coast Roy Jones Jr. will hold virtual face-to-face meetings for North Coast communities on Oct. 18. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
BC Liberal Candidate Roy Jones Jr, will meet constituents virtually

Face to face conversations will be held on Oct. 18 for North Coast communities

Kelly Lynn Whitney has been acclaimed as the successful candidate on Oct. 16, in the Village of Port Clements by Election. Seen in photos Kelly Whitney-Gould is pictured putting finishing touches on “Ms. Gnomer’s Home 4 Wayward Folk.” (Kelly Whitney-Gould/Submitted photo)
Kelly Lynn Whitney acclaimed in By Election

Village of Port Clements By Election success

Stikine provincial election candidates (clockwise from top left): Nathan Cullen, NDP; Darcy Repen, Rural BC Party; Rod Taylor, Christian Heritage; and Gordon Sebastian, BC Liberals.
‘Where is Annita McPhee?’: Cullen under fire from opening salvo of all-candidates forum

Four Stikine candidates spar during online debate from Prestige Hudson Bay Lodge in Smithers

With local MLA Adam Olsen looking on, BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau said a Green government would convert BC Ferries into a Crown corporation Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Green leader Sonia Furstenau promises to convert BC Ferries back into Crown corporation

Promise comes Monday afternoon with five days left in campaign

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

The BC Ferries vessel the Queen of Oak Bay. (News Bulletin file photo)
‘Buy a boat,’ Horgan advises anti-maskers on BC Ferries

NDP leader John Horgan talks COVID-19 misinformation

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A B.C. man decided to create a website to help people find family doctors accepting patients. Because Victoria is considered high-demand, clinic openings can’t be posted publicly. (Unsplash)
Vancouver Island man starts website that connects B.C. residents with doctors

Nanaimo man started project to help people find family physicians accepting patients

Voting station at Tzeachten Hall in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent on the first day of advance voting in the provincial election on Oct. 15, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. VOTES 2020: 380,000 British Columbians head to polls in first 4 days of advance voting

Some of highest voter turnout so far has been seen on Vancouver Island and in Shuswap

Most Read