UPDATED - Reporting on national poll obscures strong support of marijuana sales in liquor stores in B.C.

Analysis of finding from a recent national poll commissioned and reported by the Globe and Mail misses the mark on public opinion regarding the sale of legal marijuana in B.C., according to results from a January 2016 poll of B.C. residents.

The January poll, commissioned by the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU),  indicates that 58% of B.C. residents support/somewhat support the sale of non-medical marijuana through liquor stores, an increase of 22% from the national results reported in the Globe and Mail poll. The BCGEU poll reached over 1,500 B.C. residents, while the Globe and Mail poll was limited to 1,000 residents across Canada. Both polls were conducted by Nanos Research with respective margins of error of ±2.5 and ±3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Moreover, the B.C. data subset from the Globe and Mail national poll (±8.1% margin of error) corroborates findings from the BCGEU poll. Both polls show data within the margin of error for strong support of sales through liquor stores (BCGEU – 41%, Globe and Mail – 42.9%), and both polls also show overwhelming support/somewhat support for legalization of marijuana in the province (BCGEU – 67%, Globe and Mail – 75%.)

A critical difference between the two polls is that the BCGEU survey questions differentiated between medical and non-medical marijuana, but the Globe and Mail poll did not.

“It is our opinion that medical marijuana is an altogether separate issue that should continue to be a conversation between doctors and patients,” said Stephanie Smith, president of the BCGEU. “With their age-controlled environment and proven record of ID verification, it’s clear that the majority of B.C. residents feel that public and private liquor stores are the most socially responsible place to sell non-medical marijuana.”

Medical marijuana has been distributed through independent providers, but recent developments suggest that pharmacies may be interested in medical marijuana sales. The Globe and Mail reporting suggests that the public favours sales and distribution through pharmacies, but in two separate surveys, the provincial breakdown tells a different story.

In December 2015, the BCGEU partnered with the B.C. Private Liquor Stores Association (BCPLSA) to form an alliance to promote the regulation, distribution and sale of recreational marijuana through public and private liquor stores across B.C.  The Responsible Marijuana Retail Alliance consists of the BCPLSA, who represent the private liquor store industry across  the province, and the BCGEU, whose members include over 3,800 retail store and warehouse employees at the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch.

“Some critics of the plan to retail marijuana through liquor stores have accused government stores of wanting a monopoly on the industry. Given our partnership in this alliance, it’s clear that’s untrue,” said Damian Kettlewell of the BCPLSA. “We feel just as strongly as the BCGEU that using the existing system of liquor sales in B.C. is ideally suited for the sale of non-medical marijuana.”

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact: Aaron Donovan, BCGEU Communications – 604-306-9122, aaron.donovan@bcgeu.ca