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5 Contentious Items in BC’s New Cannabis Legislation

April 27, 2018
(bluejayphoto/iStock)
Canada’s federal government has left a lot of the decision-making on a wide facet of cannabis-legalization issues up to provinces, including rules around distribution, private cultivation, and transport. It’s made for a varied approach across the country.

As provincial governments drafted and announced details of their respective legalization plans, British Columbia stood out by announcing a plan that would combine private and public sales of cannabis to consumers. Despite some acknowledged flaws, the announcement was generally seen as a positive step.

As we know, however, it all comes down the details, and when the BC government this week released the full text of its two legalization bills – the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act and the Cannabis Distribution Act—the Canadian cannabis Twitter-sphere took aim at a number of the provisions within the province’s proposed rules.

1. Private Limits and the ‘Know Your Friend’ Requirement

It’s not yet known what the exact private possession limit will be in BC (it’s to be prescribed later), but British Columbia will indeed have a private possession limit, like Quebec which has opted for a limit of 150 grams. It’s not so much the pronouncement of a private limit that has caused concern, but rather a provision in the upcoming law that requires an individual to take “reasonable steps” to ensure that if someone else in the same location, the two or more of them don’t have more than the allowable amount of cannabis at the location at once. Complicated, right? Georgia Straight reporter Amanda Siebert took to Twitter to figure it out:

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2. The Ban on Public Cannabis Intoxication

British Columbia has decided to outlaw cannabis intoxication, giving broad powers to police officers to arrest individuals who they believe on reasonable grounds to be both intoxicated from cannabis and remaining in a “public place.” What’s so odd and backwards about this provision is that BC has previously confirmed that cannabis will generally be able to be smoked wherever tobacco smoking is allowed. How can smoking cannabis be permitted in public on one hand, while intoxication resulting from the substance (which usually happens within one hit or less than a joint) is strictly outlawed? And oh yeah: If you get caught being high in public, you can face up to three months in jail, with six months for your second offence. As BC-based cannabis activist Dana Larsen tweeted, “What does ‘intoxicated from cannabis’ even mean?”

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3. The Duty to Provide Information

BC’s cannabis laws have a curious requirement that people who bring marijuana into or outside the province must “within the prescribed time provide the prescribed information to the prescribed person in a form and manner satisfactory to that prescribed person.” What does all this Kafkaesque language mean? You may have to fill out some sort of card similar to an international customs declaration—though only if the province ends up “prescribing” so through regulations, which it might not even end up doing. Deepak Anand, Vice President of Government Relations at Cannabis Compliance Inc, wondered aloud on Twitter:

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4. A Path Forward for Existing Dispensaries (Maybe)

Industry lawyer Trina Fraser tweeted an article in which the BC Solicitor General said that existing dispensaries could apply for a retail licence but “serious criminal offences such as trafficking” would be a bar to licensing. As Fraser tweeted, “Sooo…???” It’s hard to see how existing dispensaries would not already be “trafficking” when their sole purpose is to sell marijuana to people. The Solicitor General better figure out his explanation on this one.

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5. The Double-Whammy Ban on Illicit Cannabis

Cannabis from an illegal source, otherwise known as “illicit cannabis” has been outlawed not just federally, but now provincially in BC, with fines of up to three months in jail and a $5,000 fine just on the provincial side. That drew the ire of activist Dana Larsen, who asked what the point of that was, with Kirk Tousaw, a veteran cannabis lawyer, chiming in that while it’s “obviously silly, it is also totally unenforceable, and I doubt the province has any desire or interest to prosecute that situation.” Maybe they “shouldn’t be passing silly, unenforceable laws?” Larsen replied.

Harrison Jordan's Bio Image

Harrison Jordan

Harrison Jordan is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto and enjoys reading and writing about the regulatory affairs of cannabis in Canada and around the world.

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  • Clayton McCann

    The point being made with federal and provincial legislative attempts at regulating MJ is to over-legislate, and make concessions in implementation and enforcement. Very difficult to invert that model. We don’t really believe Ontario will put CCTV cameras on high school buses to monitor students’ compliance with Bill 174, but we acknowledge it could. The span between those realities is significant, and involves an imprudent use of political will. Our focus should be on passages in BC’s bills that pose significant threats to civil liberties. For example, C-46 mandates stop/search/seizure of vehicles and passengers, a clear violation of Charter rights, such as freedom from arbitrary search & seizure, freedom of movement, and the Supreme Court of Canada’s determination that Canadians should have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Waiting until the courts iron out the problems in C-46. and C-45 (and the provincial variants) is unjust, as it would lead to undue suffering, and should be resolved by the Senate. The Senate, however, is involved in a partisan effort to defame the bills, and seems disinterested in protecting Canadians’ civl liberties.

  • Clayton McCann

    C-45 is deeply flawed as well, though you won’t hear journalists commenting on it, because it is onerous to slog through. But it mandates civil forfeiture of such grievous proportions that someone should really tear it apart and start over. Not even convicted rapists and murderers suffer the same fate as MJ cultivators under C-45: in fact, Canadians need merely be suspected of cultivation for enforcement to be able to seize property. Worse, the bill permits enforcement to keep that property to defray expenses incurred by seizing it. Horrible stuff, and effectively deals law enforcement into the illicit production business. Think such measures will be employed sparingly and judiciously? Think again, see Molly Lynch’s excellent Tyee piece, “The War on BC’s Small Pot Farmer.” It may be from 2013, but it continues to resonate. Check out Gov BC jobs to see BC is hiring new Civil Forfeiture Office workers to ramp up the new War on Drugs that legalization of MJ will bring to BC (and the rest of the country). The cruel irony here is that police will be used to enforce MJ monopolies of ultra-rich MJ producers (LP’s), and BC communities will suffer in the cross-fire.

  • Gail Collins

    Not being intoxicated on cannibals in public? So if you are twitching and cursing randomly at people, crying screaming or OD ING on something and need to be revived your cool, but if you are munching on a giant chocolate bar and giggling off to jail with you?

  • Anneliese

    Just what we all suspected, that the ‘legalization’ of cannabis is as absurd arbitrary and as ignorant as its prohibition – with law enforcement budgets again the only ‘guaranteed’ winner.