BC to sell recreational marijuana in province-run stores

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The province announced new details of its regulatory regime on Monday, including that cannabis will be sold online and through private and government-run stores.

British Columbia will create a retail system for recreational cannabis that is nearly identical to the one for alcohol, but like most other provinces, will not allow the two substances to be sold together in private or public stores once Ottawa legalizes it this summer. Private cannabis retailers also won't be allowed to sell other products like food, gas, clothing and lottery tickets. According to the press release, "the B.C. government ... will establish exceptions for rural non-medical cannabis retail stores, similar to those of rural liquor stores". The province says the criteria for rural areas is now under development.

- The changes are expected to be introduced in the spring legislative session.

The province will launch an early registration process for individuals and businesses seeking retail licenses.

Although the province did not put a cap on the number of retail licenses available, they would not be issued without the backing of local municipalities, which could say what their communities needed. "We fully anticipate all levels of government will need to continue to assess and refine cannabis policy and regulation in the months and years to come".

The government is hopeful to have the first new public and private stores in operation by the end of the summer, but can't say whether existing dispensaries in Vancouver and Victoria hoping to transition to sell to all consumers could be approved ahead of that. Residents under 19 will be prohibited from possessing any non-medical cannabis.

- Personal possession of non-medicinal marijuana for people who are at least 19 will be limited to 30 grams. However, to minimize child and youth exposure, smoking and vaping of non-medical cannabis will be banned in areas frequented by children, including community beaches, parks and playgrounds. Use of cannabis in any form will be banned for all occupants in vehicles.

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Local governments will be able to set additional restrictions, as they do now for tobacco use.

Adults in B.C. will be allowed to grow up to four plants per household, but landlords and strata councils can restrict or prohibit cultivation and smoking in properties. Farnworth says the framework comes after months of engagement and research.

The province will create a 90-day ban for those caught driving while drug-impaired and it will increase training for law enforcement officers to recognize impairment.

There will also be zero tolerance for the detection of TCH, the active ingredient in cannabis, for drivers in the Graduated Licensing Program.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announces proposed regulations for legalized non-medicinal marijuana in British Columbia on February 5, 2018.

The first government-run cannabis stores are to open by late summer and the online sale of pot is being considered.

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