An Introduction to BC’s Recently Proposed Cannabis Laws
On April 26, 2018, BC introduced three new bills with respect to the legalization of cannabis in the province. These bills tie into Canada’s proposed Cannabis Act, and won’t come into force until the federal laws are in place.
In brief, BC’s proposed legislative regime consists of three new laws, as follows:
1. Cannabis Distribution Act (CDA)
The Cannabis Distribution Act (Bill 31) authorizes the BC government to buy and sell cannabis and cannabis accessories, and to establish and operate warehouses, stores and an online sales system.
Some highlights of Bill 31 include:
- Limited Application – the bill does not apply to medical cannabis or industrial hemp;
- Minors – sale of cannabis or cannabis accessories to an individual under the age of 19 is prohibited;
- Government Purchase – the government may only purchase cannabis from a federal producer, must keep records of such cannabis, and must take adequate measures to reduce the risk that it is diverted to an illicit market or activity;
- Revenue – cannabis revenue must first go to the administration of the Act, with any amounts leftover paid into the consolidated revenue fund;
- Ties to Liquor Distribution – it is likely that the General Manager of the Liquor Distribution Branch will be the administrator of this Act.
2. Cannabis Control and Licensing Act (CCLA)
The Cannabis Control and Licensing Act (Bill 30) regulates the possession, sale, supply, production and consumption of cannabis. It also establishes a licensing scheme for the retail sale of cannabis in private stores and for agents involved in the purchase and sale of cannabis.
Some highlights of Bill 30 include:
- Notable Definitions:
- Public Places – prohibitions to use of cannabis in public places, which include vehicles and boats located in an outdoor place open to public view;
- Indigenous Nations – include treaty First Nations and bands (under the Indian Act);
- Vehicles – defined broadly to include vehicles under the Motor Vehicle Act, and also bikes, off-road vehicles and others;
- Sale by Federal Producers – limited right to sell to the government, another federal producer and a person outside BC (in prescribed circumstances);
- Retail Licences:
- Fit and Proper – the government may refuse to issue a retail licence to an applicant who is not “fit and proper”, and may consider the applicant’s “associates” (including a person that has direct or indirect influence on the applicant) in making this determination;
- Terms and Conditions – these may include, amongst others, days and hours of operation, permissible signs, pricing of cannabis, and physical structure and security measures of the establishment;
- Veto Rights – Indigenous Nations and local governments have a veto right on retail licence applications proposed in their areas;
- Prohibited Sales – include selling cannabis and cannabis accessories from self-service dispensaries and dispensing devices (like vending machines);
- Personal Uses:
- Right to Possess – adults may possess 30g of dried cannabis and a total of 4 cannabis plants per dwelling house (regardless of the number of residents, and those plants may not be visible from a public place);
- Outdoor Use – prohibited at skating rinks, sports fields, swimming pools, playgrounds, parks and skate parks;
- Indoor Use – prohibited at workplaces and common areas of apartments, condo buildings, dormitories, bus stops, and in vehicles/boats (even if these are stationary);
- Arrest – can be arrested if intoxicated from cannabis in a public place;
- Seizure Powers – include right to seize cannabis that is in plain view and in contravention to the Act;
- Training and Public Education – specific programs and certificates for those who will work in cannabis retail.
3. Motor Vehicle Amendment Act, 2018
The Motor Vehicle Amendment Act, 2018 (Bill 17) makes amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act that will address drug-affected driving in BC, granting police additional tools to remove drug-affected drivers from the road.
Some highlights of Bill 17 include:
- Zero Tolerance – prohibition on having any cannabis in a person’s body for prescribed classes of driver’s licences and licences to drive specific classes of vehicles;
- Drug Screening – expected to be done by way of blood samples to assess blood drug concentration;
- Driver’s Licence Suspensions – will be for 90 days following the expiry of a 7-day temporary licence.
We understand that the Liquor Distribution Branch, who will be acting as BC’s wholesale distributor of non-medical cannabis, is expected to open the first government-operated retail store by late summer 2018, and is working to implement an e-commerce solution to offer online sales to the public.
Stay tuned, as we will be issuing more posts on cannabis regulation and its implications in the near future, including a specific post on Indigenous Nations and their involvement in this new legal framework.
Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding cannabis regulation in BC, or require any assistance navigating these new requirements.