This week, Victoria unveiled its plans for marijuana distribution when recreational use of the drug becomes legal later this year.
The new rules raise new questions for local governments and have existing Okanagan pot shops concerned about where the province wants them to start sourcing their weed.
Vernon dispensary owner Russ Stevenson isn’t shy about speaking his mind on the province’s plans for legal recreational weed sales in B.C.
“It really looks like the government hasn’t been listening,” said Stevenson.
He doesn’t like the idea of stores having to buy all their cannabis from the province’s Liquor Distribution Branch.
“Every store will have the same products,” he said.
Victoria’s plans for recreational marijuana sales include both government-run and private stores. However, the government’s Liquor Distribution Branch will act as the sole wholesaler for private stores.
“That’s absurd,” said Dan Didio who operates a pot shop on Vernon’s main street.
“We are a specialty shop, kind of like a specialty beer or a specialty food item so I can’t really buy my product from the government.”
Stevenson believes the plan will hit small growers, currently supplying pot shops, hard.
“Those people as of July or August, whenever we get this through, are all unemployed,” he said.
In a written statement, responding to the specific concerns raised by the existing businesses, the province said there are still many decisions to be made.
“Our priority remains focused on ensuring the needs and values of British Columbians are reflected in the decisions we make, while we continue to prioritize the protection of young people, health and safety, keeping cannabis out of the hands of criminals, keeping our roads safe and supporting the economic development of our province,” said Solicitor General Mike Farnworth in a statement.
What the province isn’t planning to regulate is the number of stores or their locations — it’s leaving that up to local governments.
In Vernon, the mayor’s not interested in a cap.
“The market should decide. We don’t decide how many gas stations can be in our town or how many fast food restaurants can be in our town,” said Mayor Akbal Mund.
Stevenson is still hoping the province will change course.
“Let’s keep the small shops going and let’s keep them supplied by the small grows. It is going to employ a lot more people in B.C. and have a lot more benefits,” said Stevenson.
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