B.C. liquor stores best to deal cannabis - BCGEU


The Daily Courier (Kelowna)

Tue Nov 21 2017



It’s late afternoon and you receive a text message: ‘Friends coming for dinner. Please
pick up wine.‘You pull into the neighbourhood liquor store, pick up a bottle of your
favourite wine and head home. A familiar scene taking place across the province every
day.


When you go into your local liquor store, you have confidence knowing that you’re buying
a quality product in a secure environment, with stores conveniently located in every
community across the province.


B.C.‘s public and private liquor stores have a proven track record over many decades,
selling controlled alcohol products to adults in a responsible manner, with more than a
90 per cent compliance rate in restricting sales to minors.


B.C.‘s liquor stores are a perfect fit for non-medical cannabis sales, especially given the
tight timeline for implementation of July 1, 2018 provided by the federal government.
B.C.‘s efficient liquor distribution network has been serving controlled products to British
Columbians for 96 years.


During the B.C. government’s public consultation on non-medical cannabis regulation,
some groups have suggested that co-locating marijuana with alcohol is not
recommended, as it contributes to co-use of the products. Others have suggested that
people using medical marijuana to help treat alcoholism should not have to purchase
cannabis from a liquor store.


The Responsible Marijuana Retail Alliance of BC fully supports an evidence-based
public health policy approach that discourages the co-use of alcohol, marijuana and
tobacco. We also believe that medical cannabis use should be administered by a safe,
separate and effective medical cannabis distribution system.


As part of this evidence-based process, we point to a submission to the federal cannabis
task force by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Canada’s largest
mental health and addiction teaching hospital, which states that “there is no evidence as
to whether selling cannabis and alcohol alongside one another encourages or facilitates
co-use.”


In contrast to the lack of evidence of harm associated with co-location, academic
research shows that harm reduction policies are better implemented by public agencies
like the Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) than by private networks.
The CAMH submission supports the distribution of non-medical cannabis by “provincial
liquor boards.” Both Ontario and New Brunswick are already using liquor boards to
distribute and retail cannabis.


The Ontario government approach to cannabis sales uses the public liquor distribution
network to sell non-medical cannabis in 150 costly new public stand-alone sales outlets.
However, only 40 locations will be in place in the first year, with the remainder to open by
2020 - creating ongoing demand for a black-market cannabis industry.
By contrast, B.C.‘s 868 public and private liquor stores, with our highly-trained staff,
already provide secure sale of controlled substances in every community across the
province.


B.C.‘s liquor stores are also compliant with current municipal zoning bylaws and
provincial licensing regulations, unlike the majority of existing unlicensed cannabis
dispensaries, or potential stand-alone outlets.


Given the very short timeframe for the province to implement federal cannabis
regulations, any stand-alone distribution network would be extremely costly to
implement, and would duplicate the work done by the existing Liquor Distribution Branch.
It would be difficult if not impossible to have a parallel system in place by next summer.
We believe that B.C.‘s existing sales and distribution system maximizes the benefits to
our province while minimizing risks.


Done properly, the retail and distribution of nonmedical cannabis through our current
liquor distribution system will create good jobs for British Columbians and generate
revenue to fund public services, while minimizing potential harms associated with
cannabis use.


Stephanie Smith is president of the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union, and
Damian Kettlewell is a spokesman for the Alliance of Beverage Licensees.