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The Province Releases Draft Cannabis Legislation

By Denise McCabe (posts), Devin Buchanan (posts) and Kaitlyn Cumming (posts)

The Province Releases Draft Cannabis Legislation

The Province of BC released draft legislation today for the regulation of the distribution, sale and use of non-medical cannabis, affirming public health and safety as its key priority. Two pieces of legislation were introduced in the Legislative Assembly for first reading: The Cannabis Distribution Act (Bill 31, the “CDA”) and the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act (Bill 30, the “CCLA”).

The CDA establishes a public wholesale distribution monopoly, whereby the province will regulate and manage distribution in a manner similar to liquor distribution through the existing BC Liquor Distribution Branch. The CCLA provides a framework for the licensing of public and private retailers, and sets restrictions on matters such as possession, personal cultivation, and consumption. The draft legislation is consistent with earlier details released by the province in February.

Subject to Local Government Recommendation

Of interest to local governments will be Division 3 of the draft CCLA, which concerns consultation with local governments and Indigenous nations. In particular, section 33 gives local governments a veto in the provincial licensing process. A general manager, who will be appointed by the province to oversee the licensing process, must not issue a licence or amend a licence unless the applicable local government gives the general manager a recommendation to that effect. Furthermore, upon receipt of an application, the province must give notice to the relevant local government.

The discretion of a local government to provide a recommendation is limited by the draft CCLA. Accompanying regulations, which are to be released at a later date, will further specify the criteria that must be considered by local governments in determining whether or not to make a recommendation in favour of a licence application. It is anticipated that the factors will relate to areas of natural local government jurisdiction such as zoning, land use, and community planning. Based on this assumption and previous announcements, local governments will likely retain control over the location and conditions imposed on cannabis retailers through business licensing and zoning regulations.

Public Consultation

Local governments will also be required to gather views of affected residents in one of the following manners:

  1. By receiving written comments in response to a public notice;
  2. By conducting a public hearing in respect of the application;
  3. By holding a referendum; or
  4. By using another method the local government considers appropriate.

Community Safety Unit

Another point of interest for local governments is the BC Government’s announcement regarding the creation of a new “Community Safety Unit” to target illegal cannabis operations. Though details are sparse at this time, this new unit may help lessen the burden on local governments to enforce against illegal dispensaries and other operations.

Lastly, consequential amendments to various pieces of legislation will accompany the CDA and CCLA, including to the Motor Vehicle Act, the Residential Tenancy Act, and the Provincial Sales Tax Act (noting that taxation will be consistent with the liquor regime). No amendments to the Local Government Act or the Community Charter have been announced at this time.

Legislation Highlights

Here are some highlights of the draft legislation:

CDA

  • Public wholesale distribution model, where province has monopoly and exclusive jurisdiction
  • Public government-run retail sales permitted, both in stores and online

CCLA

  • 19 set as minimum age to purchase, sell or consume cannabis
  • Smoking and vaping of cannabis prohibited everywhere tobacco is prohibited
  • Smoking and vaping of cannabis prohibited in areas children commonly gather (playgrounds, sports fields, skate parks, etc.)
  • No use of cannabis on school properties, in vehicles, or in boats
  • Restrictions on sale and marketing to minors
  • Cannabis cannot be sold by means of self-service machines
  • Prohibits public intoxication and the sale of cannabis to those intoxicated by drugs or alcohol
  • Landlords may be held responsible for allowing premises to be used for illegal sale of cannabis, unless have taken “reasonable steps” to prevent
  • General manager considers whether retail sale license applicants are “fit and proper” and whether granting a licence is in “the public interest”
  • Restrictions on connections between retail sale licence holders and their connections to federal producers
  • Wide discretion to impose additional terms on licences or to suspend licences if there are safety issues, violence, or if in the “public interest”
  • Fines for offences range from 2k-100k, with the possibility of imprisonment of 3-12 months

See the following Provincial government links for more information:

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