VICTORIA — British Columbia has become the latest province to outline its plan for regulating recreational marijuana, announcing Tuesday that pot sales would be allowed through both public and private stores to buyers who are at least 19 years old.
The age of consumption, purchase and possession of marijuana will be consistent with alcohol and tobacco laws, Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said in a news release.
The government wants to protect young people, prioritize health, keep criminals out of the industry and maintain road safety, he said.
Almost 50,000 residents and 141 local and Indigenous governments made submissions during a provincial government consultation period ahead of the federal government's legalization of non-medical cannabis in July.
"We will continue to consider your opinions as we further develop policy and legislation that is in the best interests of this province, ensuring a made-in-B.C. approach to the legalization of non-medical cannabis," Farnworth said.
The Alliance of Beverage Licensees, which represents B.C.'s private liquor industry, applauded the decision to give the government's liquor distribution branch responsibility for warehousing and distributing non-medical cannabis.
Chief executive Jeff Guignard said the decision is the most efficient and cost-effective way to meet the federal government's July deadline for legalization.
"We believe our decades of experience retailing a controlled substance safely ... and our demonstrated history of complying with a rigorous enforcement and inspection regime make us uniquely suited to retail adult-use recreational cannabis in B.C.," Guignard said.
The move also won support from the union representing workers at the liquor distribution branch.
Concern about impact on young people
A report released along with British Columbia's announcement says many people expressed concern about the impact of cannabis on brain development for those under 25.
"Many of those who commented advocated for public awareness initiatives to educate youth, young adults and parents about the potential impacts of cannabis use on the developing brain," the report says.
There were also polarized views on drug-impaired driving. Some want zero tolerance while others said cannabis doesn't impact the ability to drive, the report says.
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It says there was some confusion among consultation participants on the distribution and retails sales of marijuana, but many opposed Ontario's model for distribution and retail.
"Most of these individuals preferred to see the existing dispensaries and their supply chain legitimized, licensed and regulated," it says.
Ontario intends to sell the drug in up to 150 stores run by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and ban consumption in public spaces or workplaces.
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The report says two points emerged on public consumption: People don't want to be subjected to second-hand cannabis smoke in public places and they want cannabis consumption limited to indoor use at a private residence or a designated consumption space.
The B.C. regulations come after most other provinces and territories have released their plans on the sale, distribution and consumption of marijuana.
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