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At the time of writing, cannabis legalization is a mere two weeks old, and I’m reminded, several dozen times a day, that legalization is truly not about the moment itself, but it’s about the process. And it will be a very, very long process indeed.Despite the tidal wave of Canadian press coverage, including reviews and analysis about cannabis and legalization, there’s so much work that the government, industry, and media needs to do to educate Canadians about the most basic rules and regulations; especially where you can buy it, what kinds of products are available, and where they can be responsibly enjoyed.
For now, the only legal brick-and-mortar shop is a government-run BC Cannabis Store at Columbia Place in Kamloops, a short three-and-a-half-hour jaunt from the province’s biggest city. Why are there no regulated pot shops in Vancouver or other big BC centres, you ask? Well, it has to do with the municipalities themselves who have the final say about where in their city limits a cannabis store can go, how far they have to be from schools or hospitals, or even if they will allow licensed cannabis retailers at all.Many of these municipalities were waiting until after the local elections before making these decisions. For example, it’s likely that we’ll see licences issued for Vancouver, Victoria, Kimberley, Gibsons, Bowen Island, Sechelt, Williams Lake, and Nanaimo in short order. Other municipalities such as Surrey, Richmond and West Vancouver are not likely to approve stores any time soon, but time will tell.
That said, this past weekend I noticed a number of dispensaries still operating in Vancouver, none of whom are yet approved or regulated by either the City of Vancouver, or the province itself. I’m not making a judgement either way, but considering that purchasing weed from these stores can now nab you a considerable fine if caught, you might want to try the legal route by ordering online from BCCannabisStores.com. Shipping should only take a day or two within Vancouver, and the selection and prices are pretty good (we’ll sample a few of the latest products in my next column). Many additional stores, public and private, are going to be approved all across the province, in Vancouver and beyond, in the coming weeks and months. Be patient.
In terms of product categories, the federal government is currently allowing the regulated sale of dried flower (buds), pre-rolled joints, cannabis-infused ingestible oils and capsules, and seeds. Other sought-after items such as infused topicals (creams and balms), tinctures (cannabis extracts in an alcohol base), CO2-extracted oil cartridges (for use in vaporizer pens), and pre-made edibles such as candies, gummies, or cookies will remain unregulated, and therefore illegal, for at least a year or so. It’s also worth noting that all of the legal product you can get will be sourced exclusively from federally approved licensed producers. Quality will certainly vary from one producer to another but it remains my hope that the BC government will help to fast-track approvals that will allow smaller craft growers to come easily to the BC market.
Once you do actually manage to get your hands on some legal product, you’re probably wondering where you can use it in Vancouver. Now, despite the clouds of sweet smoke that have been swiftly proliferating on our street corners, it’s not as free and easy as you might think. More or less, you can only smoke or vape wherever people are allowed to use tobacco (or those obnoxious billowing e-cigarettes) but nowhere where children might congregate. You are allowed to consume in your own home (if you own it), but otherwise you’ll have to check with your landlord or strata council if you’re renting, even if you wanted to enjoy a quick puff or two on your balcony. In BC, you’re not allowed to smoke or vape in or on school or health property, in an outdoor public space (skating rink, sports field, swimming pool, playground, skate park, regional park), in or on a vehicle or boat, or at a bus stop.
That’s for our next column.