Burns Lake residents woke up on Oct. 17 to the new reality of legalized recreational marijuana in Canada.
Under the Cannabis Act, passed by the federal government in June, Canadians in most parts of the country can legally purchase cannabis from authorized dealers, consume it in specified locations and possess up to four marijuana plants at home.
British Columbia rules on cannabis retail sales state that the Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) is the sole wholesale distributor of non-medical marijuana, according to the LDB website.
But Tammy Konkin, manager of the local BC Liquor Store, told Lakes District News her shop won’t sell cannabis products, in line with the province’s regulations which say that marijuana isn’t to be sold in the same location as alcohol. The Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) is in charge of licensing and monitoring private stores.
As of Oct. 17 there were no known shops in Burns Lake selling cannabis.
Though vape pens for consuming marijuana are sold in parts of British Columbia, as well as cannabis-derived Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, Trent Nixon, owner of local shop Small Town Vapes Burns Lake said he has no plans to sell them.
For those who can’t wait for their green fix, BC Cannabis Stores’ online shop offers sales for customers of 19 years of age or older.
The only physical weed shop in the province to open its doors for business on Oct. 17 was the BC Cannabis Store in Kamloops.
A Burns Lake retail store isn’t yet on the horizon but local businessman Wesley Sam is working on the village’s first legitimate growing operation.
His company Nations Cannabis has applied to the federal government to become a licensed producer of cannabis and is preparing blueprints for his 50,000-square foot facility in the Burns Lake Specialty Wood building near Decker Lake.
That building has sat empty for several years and Sam plans to invest $18 million towards making it a cannabis production plant. Once fully operational, he said he hopes to have the first crop ready by next fall, which will be sold to the provincial government.
Sam expects the facility will create 50-60 jobs in the community.
“It’s exciting and new,” he said of his company, which is majority-owned by First Nations people. “I’ve been working on this for six years.”
He said the legalization on Oct. 17 wasn’t a surprise to him, but “it put another fire under our butts” to get Nations Cannabis up and running.
Burns Lake’s three mayoral candidates are unified in recognizing that some members of the community wish to buy marijuana and open cannabis shops, according to their statements at the All Candidates Forum 2018 on Oct. 3.
Albert Gerow and John Rauch both support potential weed shop owners going through the proper licensing procedures, with Rauch urging that the stores not be established out in the open.
“I would hope that we would have enough common sense not to set up near the high school or places in the line of sight. The availability [of cannabis] for children is something that none of us want to hear about or see. As long as it’s licensed properly, it’s brought in properly and it’s managed properly then I guess we have to embrace it,” he said.
Dolores Funk said that “everyone should have access to purchase legal cannabis” and that its legality will limit the dangers associated with such illegal substances as fentanyl.