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Examining British Columbia’s Cannabis Legalization Plan– With Rolling Updates

The Province of British Columbia has released its plan to legalize recreational Cannabis. In short, the plan looks highly restrictive. Some Cannabis will still be “illegal,” depending on its source. Smoking while driving will result in much more severe consequences than before. Landlords and property managers will get the right to ban growing and smoking in their units. And it will be illegal to have Cannabis in your system in public.

I will be posting in this space all the details and information from the new law as I find them relevant. Keep returning to this post to find updates, which will be added at the top of the page. Also, we need your help. Do you see something in this legislation that concerns you? Leave the details in the comments.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

This is proposed legislation and has not yet been debated in the Legislature. You can made your voice heard by contacting your MLA [CONTACT LINKS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE]. They don’t get a lot of personal feedback, and they will listen. Please read all you can about the law and reference the law itself in your criticisms: Be polite, be specific, and remember: using Cannabis does not make you a second-class citizen.

We have rights, but they are easily disregarded if we allow it. As few as 80 people participated in the local feedback process, and this is reflected in a law that does not represent the will or best-interests of British Columbians.

 

If we desire respect for the law, we must make the law respectable.”
― US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, circa 1920.

 

LEGALIZATION DOESN’T MAKE ALL CANNABIS LEGAL

You can still go to jail for “illicit Cannabis”– up to three months in jail and a $5,000 fine. For the first time, it will be a Provincial crime to possess Cannabis, not just a Federal crime. Canadian Cannabis lawyer Kirk Tousaw called the rule “unenforceable.”

Dana Larsen, Cannabis activist and head of SensibleBC, posted on Twitter, “Our “legalization” laws are being written by people who clearly don’t like cannabis users and don’t want to end prohibition.”

PERSONAL AMOUNTS ARE NOT “PERSONAL”

JAIL TIME FOR SIMPLY BEING HIGH IN PUBLIC

SACRIFICING YOUR RIGHT TO DRIVE FOR ANY AMOUNT OF THC IN YOUR SYSTEM

CBC Reports:  “The government also made several changes to the Motor Vehicle Act, allowing officers to stop people on the road and penalize them for having drugs in their system. Passengers also aren’t allowed to have marijuana in moving vehicles, and new drivers in ICBC’s graduated licensing program are barred from driving with any THC in their systems”

“Some of it is quite disturbing,” said Paul Doroshenko, a defence lawyer who successfully fought against several of B.C.’s laws that gave police broad power to determine impaired driving, and issue immediate penalties based on breathalyzer tests.

Doroshenko was particularly critical of giving police the power to order a 90-day driving prohibition on the spot.

YOUR CAR COULD BE IMPOUNDED FOR 90 DAYS BASED ON A VISUAL JUDGMENT BY A “SPECIALLY TRAINED DRUG RECOGNITION EXPERT”– WHATEVER THAT MEANS

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/public-safety/cannabis

 

As well, N-drivers will face “zero tolerance” policies. This means that any THC in their system will result in fines, impounding of their vehicle, and losing their license completely. As we know non-intoxicating amounts of THC remain in the body for months after ingestion, this essentially criminalizes all driving by medical users.

NEW “CANNABIS ENFORCEMENT POLICE”, HEAVY FINES, JAIL-TIME FOR “ILLEGAL” DISPENSARIES

Dispensaries in cities like Vancouver and Victoria will have to apply for a new provincial license, even if they are currently legal under municipal by-laws. Owners and others involved will face strict background checks, and not all will survive the transition.

Minister of Public Safety Mark Farnsworth clarified some aspects of the new law. “Enforcement will ramp up” against illegal dispensaries, and “will be able to enter illegal Cannabis dispensaries without a warrant and seize product and records.” Under the new law, dispensaries would be fined double the calculated value of the product seized.

 

[Soft despotism] covers the whole of social life with a network of petty complicated rules [..] through which even those of the greatest originality and the most vigorous temperament cannot force their heads above the crowd.
Alexis de Tocqueville, ‘Democracy in America’.

 

NO SMOKING LOUNGES, NO CAFES

The law seems to prevent smoking (or vaping) in any place where a person is working for compensation– so no smoking cafes or lounges will be allowed under provincial law. In fact, smoking is banned in almost all public places.

Smoking or vaping Cannabis will also be banned from most shared public spaces, including those where children gather. Cannabis to be treated largely like Tobacco in public. 

The essence of tyranny is not iron law. It is capricious law.”

― Christopher Hitchens, 2004

 

MUNICIPALITIES ARE EMPOWERED TO MAKE HARSHER RESTRICTIONS

Cities and municipalities will have greater powers to enforce on dispensaries they deem illegal. Vancouver councillor Kerry Jang, co-chaired of B.C. government’s legalization task force and sits on the Union of B.C. Municipalities’ executive, told The Vancouver Sun

..he believes the proposed fines and jail terms for non-compliance will be effective in removing existing dispensaries which have failed to comply with local bylaws, while allowing “good operators” to stay.

“It takes all the effort and troubles, really, out of the hands of municipalities,” he said. “It’s everything that we’re looking for and more. (We’re) very pleased with it.”

SMALL PRODUCERS HAVE A PLACE, BUT NO EDIBLES OR TOPICALS– FOR YEARS

Patients currently using edible Cannabis products, or non-intoxicating topicals will suffer, as no regulations exist for legal version of these products. The federal Licensed Producers have teamed up with beverage producers and brag about their new formulations. But such regulations are far in the future. Once again, during this legalization process, it’s the medical users who suffer most. Patients in BC who use these products will be deprived of their chosen medicine for the foreseeable future.

“I am confident that we will have a significant range of product and different types of product available in B.C.”

But Dana Larsen, founder of the Vancouver-based marijuana advocacy group Sensible B.C., doesn’t think all long-time users will move to the public market once it becomes legal, especially if the Liquor Distribution Branch doesn’t have the items they’re looking for. He told the CBC about his concerns.

“Most of the products we’re selling now, all the extracts and edibles and salves and creams … would have to be removed from our shelves, because those products aren’t going to be legalized federally until maybe next year, and probably a few years after that,” he said.

But Deepak Anand, vice-president of business development and government relations for Cannabis Compliance Inc., pointed to provisions that give existing dispensaries time to change their business model to match the new laws.

“I think that the existing dispensaries are going to need more time to transition into the legal system and the B.C. LDB (liquor distribution branch) is going to need time to stock its shelves, so this provision allows them to extend that without criminalizing people that are currently operating dispensaries,” he told the Vancouver Sun.

B.C. is opting for centralized physical warehousing under the Liquor Board. This presents a problem with origin and branding– know the origin of flower is key to the ability to discern quality. Also this will mean your bud remains sitting in a warehouse for weeks or months before you can buy it.

THOSE WITH ACMPR GROW LICENSE OR “SERIOUS CRIMINAL CONVICTIONS” DISQUALIFIED FROM OWNING A SHOP

The Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnsworth clarified.

  • The Province will place restrictions on Federal producers (ie, anyone with an ACMPR license to grow) from holding a business license.
  • Sec. 26 (4)(b) prohibits issuing a license to a Federal producer.
  • Anyone “who is so connected with a Federal producer that the person is likely to promote the sale of the Cannabis of the Federal producer.”
  • The purpose of such regulations is to keep the market will diverse by preventing the “larger participants from consolidating and controlling the market.”

NO FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT WITH YOUR CANNABIS ACROSS PROVINCIAL BOUNDARIES

If you think these laws are overly restrictive, we agree with you. It seems they want legalization without legalization. There is still time to make your voice heard. Take a few minutes and express yourself..

SPEAK YOUR MIND TO OUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES

Mike Farnworth is the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General:

FARNWORTH, Hon. Mike (BC NDP) mike.farnworth.MLA@leg.bc.ca

 

 

John Horgan, our Premier:

HORGAN, Hon. John (BC NDP) john.horgan.MLA@leg.bc.ca

 

Norm Letnick, MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country:

LETNICK, Norm (BC Liberal Party) norm.letnick.MLA@leg.bc.ca

 

 

FIND YOUR MLA: https://www.leg.bc.ca/learn-about-us/members

A full list of contacts for our province’s MLAs:
https://www.leg.bc.ca/learn-about-us/members/41st-Parliament/

 

Marcus Henry Weber is a health consultant and journalist covering the legalization of Cannabis in North America and the wider world. Follow him on Twitter.

LEGISLATION: https://www.leg.bc.ca/parliamentary-business/legislation-debates-proceedings/41st-parliament/3rd-session/bills/first-reading/gov30-1

[2] https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/public-safety/cannabis

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