Marijuana retail store in Blaine, Wa., just across the B.C. border. (Black Press files)

B.C. legislates recreational marijuana sales

Age limit 19, province retains wholesale cannabis monopoly

The B.C. government has begun overhauling its laws to make way for legalized recreational marijuana, setting new rules for retail stores and establishing a new penalty for drug-impaired driving.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth confirmed the age limit for buying recreational marijuana in B.C. will be 19, and the province’s Liquor Distribution Branch will control wholesale distribution of cannabis products for sale.

The province is also establishing a new impaired driving regulation, giving police authority to impose a 90-day driving suspension for drug-impaired driving. Technology for detecting drug impairment is moving quickly and the rules will be toughened in the future, Farnworth said.

“This marks a major milestone, and puts our province in position to not only be ready for federal cannabis regulation in late summer, but does so in a way that reflects the province’s goals for legalized cannabis that prioritize public health and safety, particularly for our children and youth,” Farnworth said.

The B.C. plan is a mix of existing cannabis dispensaries and additional stores operated by the liquor distribution branch. The LDB will also offer online sales, but not private stores. Retail sales will be limited to a maximum 30 grams, which is the possession limit for adults in any public place.

Premier John Horgan said Wednesday the province has to accommodate the long-standing illegal or grey market of private sellers, which he personified as “Betty from Sooke” who sells cannabis to friends.

The legislation sets out training requirements for store staff, and extends existing tobacco smoking restrictions to include smoking and “vaping” marijuana products. Playgrounds, sports fields, skate parks and other places where children gather will be off limits for pot smokers.

The B.C. rules reflect federal legislation. Adults will also be allowed to grow up to four cannabis plants per household, but they must not be visible from public places and will not be allowed in homes used as daycares.

The federal government has backed away from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s initial announcement that recreational marijuana will be legal as of July 1. Provinces have struggled to come up with retail control and enforcement mechanisms, with Ontario opting to have a retail as well as wholesale monopoly using stand-alone government stores.

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