Some private marijuana dispensaries in B.C. are shutting down until they get licensed under the legalization framework that takes effect Wednesday, and “that’s the right thing to do,” B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says.
Farnworth announced Monday that the province has received 173 paid applications for private cannabis retailers, and has sent 62 of them on to local government or Indigenous nation for final assent before they can legally sell marijuana.
The Liquor Distribution Branch will open online sales on Oct. 17, but only one bricks-and-mortar store in Kamloops is ready to go, with municipal approval expected in time for the federal government’s legalization to begin.
Private store applications have to go through extensive background and security checks to make sure they aren’t linked to organized crime gangs that have controlled much of the street sales of marijuana.
Farnworth said a lot of work has gone into ensuring the online system is ready for the new reality of legal marijuana, which Canada is the second country after Uruguay to make legal nation-wide. The province signed deals with 32 federally licensed producers in July, and was planning to have 150 strains of cannabis available through its monopoly wholesale and online sales.
Of the 62 applications given provincial approval, 35 are in jurisdictions that have indicated that they are “ready” to licence stores, Farnworth says. Most communities are prepared to have a mix of public and private cannabis stores.
At least one municipality, Osoyoos, has indicated it wants no government store. Richmond council has indicated it will not licence any marijuana stores. And in places where dispensaries have operated with or without local business licences, some have begun to shut down until they have approval to reopen with government-approved suppliers.
“A number of stores have indicated that they want to become legal, and many are taking steps to make sure they have that ability, by applying and by recognizing that it’s probably in their interest to shut down their operations,” Farnworth said. “There have been other stores that have indicated they really don’t care what the rules are.”
Customers will be in possession of illegal marijuana if they buy from an unlicensed store as of Wednesday, but Farnworth said enforcement will be up to the police in each jurisdiction.
“As more and more legal stores open, enforcement will ramp up,” he said.