BC Conservatives Call for Education, Entrepreneurship with Cannabis Distribution
Scott Anderson, interim leader of the BC Conservative Party, today demanded that the NDP government include both education on the dangers of cannabis, and private sector involvement in the cannabis distribution system.
Bills C-45 and C-46, introduced by the federal Liberal government, will legalize cannabis for recreational use effective July 1, 2018. It is left to the provinces to decide the details of distribution.
"We feel the federal Liberal government has moved far too fast in its legalization plan, effectively downloading all the problems on the provinces and municipalities. Not to mention the fact that on July 1 next year it will have created a ludicrous situation in which recreational marijuana use is legal and medicinal cannabis is illegal except by mail order," said Anderson. "Nonetheless, what's done is done and we have to deal with the problem."
The BC Conservatives will:
1 Create and advance a robust education plan to alert the citizens of BC to the serious risks of both primary and second hand cannabis smoke, and in particular on developing children and teens.
According to numerous experts, including Canadian Paediatric Society, the Pediatricians Alliance of Ontario, and others, there is strong evidence that the brain continues to develop until roughly the age of 25 and that cannabis use can negatively impact that development in numerous ways, including changes to the brain leading to poor performance in school, higher incidence of depression, anxiety and mental illness, and even serve as a gateway drug to more harmful addictive drugs like opioids.
- Since legalization Colorado has experienced:
- A homelessness growth rate that ranks among the highest rates in the country.
- A doubling in the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes who tested positive for marijuana.
- Drug violations in K-12 schools have increased 45 percent.
- High school drug violations of 71 percent since legalization. School suspensions for drugs increased 45 percent.
- The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found Colorado ranks first in the country for marijuana use among teens, scoring well above the national average. (https://www.store.samhsa.gov/product/Behavioral-Health-Barometer-2015/SMA16-BARO-2015)
"The message that currently dominates public narrative in BC is that marijuana use is harmless," said Anderson, "but there is increasing concern within the medical community that recreational use of pot can have serious long term consequences, and especially for young users. We must make education about these risks a number one priority."
2 Put restrictions on consumption of recreational cannabis.
Consumption of alcohol is currently regulated in such a way as to minimize public disturbance and interaction with children, and the BC Conservatives will adopt restrictions similar to the restrictions on public consumption of alcohol.
"The rights of the consumer must be balanced with the rights of the public, including but not limited to children, who may be impacted by public use of cannabis for recreation," said Anderson. "Over time society has found it useful to restrict locations where consumption of alcohol is allowed, and we feel it is reasonable to adopt similar restrictions on cannabis use. In fact, there's an added dimension to cannabis use, and that's the skunkish smell that already permeates neighborhoods where grow-ops locate."
3 Give municipalities the power to decide when, where, and if cannabis can be sold within municipal jurisdictions.
Municipalities in BC already have control - through bylaws and community plans - over where cannabis stores can operate, but do not currently have clear jurisdiction over whether they can operate at all. Manitoba, unlike Ontario, has effectively given municipalities the final say over when, where, and if cannabis can be sold within municipal jurisdiction.
"Municipalities are the front lines in this premature legalization by the federal Liberals," said Anderson, "and as usual they are the ones who will directly face the problems created by legalization. It should be up to individual city or town councils to decide whether or not they want to allow cannabis to be sold within their jurisdictions."
4 The BC Conservatives will set the age limit for legal purchase and consumption at 19.
Although there is medical evidence that young adult's brains don't fully mature until approximately age 25 and that cannabis use may cause disproportionate harm until that time, British Columbia's alcohol laws dictate 19 as the legal age for drinking. To set two age limits - one for alcohol and one for cannabis - would increase enforcement complexity to the point of unworkability.
"In a perfect world my preference is to set age 25 as the legal age limit," said Anderson. "But given realities on the ground, the only viable solution is to use the same age limit as we have adopted for alcohol.
5 Increase penalties for illegal distribution.
Cannabis production is fundamentally different from alcohol production, given the processing cost of the latter and the ease of growing cannabis. Since the proposed federal legislation makes it impossible to increase penalties for possession or cultivation, enforcement mechanisms will have to focus on illegal distribution.
"In an effort to disincentivize the black market for cannabis and help keep away it from youth, the BC Conservatives will seek stronger penalties for illegal distribution, especially to underage members of society," said Anderson. "If we want to put the black market out of business and keep cannabis out of the hands of underage kids, it is crucial to make the black market unappealing to those who seek to profit from it."
6 Allow private entrepreneurs to compete in the market.
Ontario has piggybacked its cannabis distribution on its alcohol distribution system, restricting cannabis to 150 Liquor Control Board of Ontario stores. This model effectively precludes entrepreneurs from entering the market to improve selection, quality, and choice. The BC Conservatives believe that inclusion of competition will keep prices low enough to help put the black market out of business.
While creating and enforcing stringent quality regulations, it is important to allow small scale "craft growers" to compete with large growers on a level playing field. These small growers will likely serve smaller specialty retail establishments.
"In keeping with our philosophy as a free enterprise party, the BC Conservatives will allow and encourage, within a tight regulatory framework, small entrepreneurs to compete in any distribution and growth model, regardless of whether the provincial alcohol distribution model is adopted," said Anderson. "Further, we will make every effort to allow small scale "craft growers" to compete with large growers on a level playing field. Competition helps drive down prices, increase efficiencies and create jobs, and we encourage all of those things. And if we want to put the black market out of business and keep cannabis out of the hands of underage kids, it is crucial to successfully compete with it in terms of price."
For more information:
Scott Anderson, Interim Leader, BC Conservative Party
Telephone: (250) 434-2550 | http://www.bcconservative.ca/