It can come as no surprise that regional governments are tackling the issue of legalization with drastically different plans. Those differences were rather the point; the federal bill mandates cannabis legalization only so far.
The framework allows local governments to decide on many aspects of legalization after considering their citizens’ desires. After all, each province and territory has vastly different needs, views, and cultures. What’s good for Saskatchewan isn’t necessarily right for Newfoundland & Labrador. What we achieve in BC is vastly different, I hope, to what Ontario is getting.
New Brunswick is looking forward to an economic boom while Manitoba calls for a year’s extension before legalization. Northwest Territories finished community input, and Alberta is in the midst of analyzing theirs. Ontario has had their civil consultation and already announced their regulatory scheme. Boy, it’s a doozy.
BC’s Feedback Form
So now it’s BC’s turn to have our say on minimum age, personal possession, consumption areas, impaired driving, home cultivation, distribution, and retail. From now until November 1st, you can fill out the feedback form. I suggest reading the discussion paper first.
The discussion paper is very clear on our options, from just following the federal rules to increasing regulations. It has a considered approach to most sides of the issues and the reasons for recommendations. There are cautions and caveats to all sides, including warnings about choosing too conservatively.
The questions aren’t as open or clear where the government has an obvious preference.
The federal minimum age is set at 18 years old. BC has the option of leaving it as-is. And the form explanation lays that out in the first sentence. But we’re asked only “Do you support setting the minimum age to possess, purchase and consume cannabis in B.C. to 19 (to correspond with British Columbia’s age of majority)?”
What if you do not support raising the proposed minimum age, what if you support the federal age of 18? The choices are “Yes,” “No. It should be older than 19,” and “Don’t Know/No opinion.” Neither negative option conveys keeping 18 as the legal age — we know what the government wants, here.
At least with the question on personal possession, “Do you support the proposed federal 30g possession limit?” the options “strongly support” down to “strongly oppose” can only have one meaning. Although, if one did oppose it, there’s nowhere to suggest another limit. But the form sets out why the maximum would benefit Canadians.
Obviously the government doesn’t plan to allow cannabis consumption more freely than other social drugs. Disagreeing with questions like “public smoking/vaping of non-medical cannabis should be allowed in any public place where tobacco smoking/vaping is currently allowed” doesn’t convey that it should be allowed in more places. So don’t forget to agree to vapour lounges and cafés!
And what does disagreeing with “limitations of public consumption of non-medical cannabis should be the same for any form of cannabis (e.g. smoked, vaped, eaten, lotions, tinctures/drops, etc.)” mean? Disagreeing may mean one wants to allow edibles but not smoked cannabis in certain circumstances, or it may mean one for some reason wants to limit one of the other forms even more than smoked/vaped.
The discussion paper itself admits that tests for THC markers aren’t necessarily reliable for determining impairment. And studies show that impairment is much different between cannabis and alcohol, meaning driving dangers are different too. Two of the three questions are pretty straightforward.
But my main concern on this section of BC’s Feedback Form is the first question “Do you think the legalization of non-medical cannabis will result in increased problems with cannabis-impaired driving in B.C.?” Why not use data from the states and countries that have legalized? What relevance should opinions that have their own agendas have on this policy? This public perception question seems like it’s to ensure decisions make the government look good, not to make sound laws.
This question is pretty straight forward. How much do you agree that “BC should set additional restrictions on where and how British Columbians can grow non-medical cannabis for personal use at home.” It even has space to write additional restrictions one might desire. But it also reminds us that we can produce alcohol and tobacco at home already.
Distribution & Retail
Despite being the longest part of the form, or maybe because of it, the questions here cover the options pretty comparatively to BC’s retail and distribution models for alcohol.
So let me put forward a personal suggestion: One of the options for the question “If sold in retail stores, which requirements should be considered for regulating retail regardless of who operates the stores?” is “Background checks on staff.” Another is “Other” with a field to explain.
There are very good reasons why previous non-violent cannabis convictions, for everything not just possession, must be forgiven or overlooked. The cannabis community — from budtenders to street dealers — deserve to be able to work in their newly legal field.
If you fill out BC’s Feedback Form, please consider selecting “Other” here and adding “Allow those with non-violent cannabis convictions to work in distribution and sales.”
And then, before opting in or out of the end survey, share any more comments you have about cannabis legalization in BC. We’ve got just over a month to make our voices heard and, hopefully, keep knowledgeable people in the cannabis industry employed.