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)

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

Vaccinations are set to resume in the small community of Tatchet, according to Lake Babine Nation’s Deputy Chief. (Black Press Media file photo)
Lake Babine Nation vaccine rollout resumes after a short pause

A COVID positive test within the care team had put the vaccinations on hold

Cheslatta Chief Corrina Leween received one of the COVID-19 vaccines on the Southside, on Wednesday, Jan. 13. (Submitted/Lakes District News)
COVID-19 vaccination begins in Burns Lake

Senior population, health care workers and First Nations among the first to get the vaccine

Sasquatch sighting. (Omineca Ski Club photo/Lakes District News)
Sasquatch on the loose at Omineca Ski Club

Head out to the trails to see if you can spot it; a tongue-in-cheek response from the club President

Two books in particular became quite popular at the start of the pandemic — Soap and Water Common Sense, The definitive guide to viruses’ bacteria, parasites, and disease and The Great Influenza, The story of the deadliest pandemic in history. (Priyanka Ketkar photo/Lakes District News)
Burns Lake Public Library lent 20,916 books in 2020

Gained 67 new patrons throughout the year

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in B.C.’s Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Most Read