British Columbia, home to the world famous “BC Bud,” has released part of its plan to sell recreational weed next year and it’s promising for those who want to see private businesses thrive in the legal regime.
The NDP government said Tuesday that wholesale distribution of recreational cannabis will be controlled by the BC Liquor Distribution Branch, but both public and private retail stores will be allowed to sell the product. The province also set the legal minimum age for purchasing weed at 19, the same as for alcohol.
Though scant on details, including how many retail shops will be permitted, and who will be allowed to legally supply weed to the province’s liquor board, the announcement seems like a small win for supporters of a free market for weed.
BC already has the largest illegal weed market in the country—one study by researchers at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia said British Columbians consume between $443 million and $564 million of pot a year. A legal, taxed market, gives BC the potential to bring in billions of dollars over a five-year period, researchers say.
Vancouver has one of the country’s only business licensing schemes for weed dispensaries; the city had 176 pot shops apply for licenses, though only a handful were approved.
While Ontario’s population is 14 million compared to BC’s 4.6 million, Ontario has opted to go with a very conservative weed retail strategy that includes opening 40 government-run stores next year. That works out to roughly one store per 340,000 people. Toronto alone has around 80 illegal pot shops right now. Experts have said Ontario’s strategy is unlikely to wipe out the black market in part because it won’t meet demand.
Quebec’s proposals are even worse. The province of 8.2 million plans to open 15 government-run pot shops next year and it’s banning home growing.
As previously mentioned, we are still waiting on many details about BC’s plan, which are slated to be released in early 2018. But the province has always been in a leader in progressive drug policy and there’s reason to believe that trend will continue.