“I don’t want it to be dominated by one or two large-scale variety of producers,” Farnworth said Friday. “I think there’s room in this market for a considerable variety or product and a considerable variety of producers.”
He said that while provinces are responsible for retail operations and enforcement, licensed production of cannabis, including edibles, is decided by the federal government and any changes to regulations will become apparent if a new government takes power after next week’s federal election.
“What we want to do is work with the federal government,” he told a news conference. “We’ll be watching very closely after Monday to see whether in fact the landscape as it relates to cannabis is going to change.”
Given the size of B.C.’s longtime marijuana industry in many small communities, particularly in the Kootenay area of the Interior, Farnworth said he’d like to see regional issues considered when it comes to licensing of producers.
He said edible products will be not sold in liquor stores, but the province is interested in considering farm-to-gate sales, particularly involving small-scale producers.
While edibles, oils, topicals, hash and other cannabis goods became legal on Thursday, Farnworth said they would not be available in retail outlets until January.
The delay is because producers must provide 60 days notice to Health Canada of their intention to sell the products.
At least 36 marijuana stores have been closed in the province for illegally selling their products since the legalization marijuana a year ago, Farnworth said.
He said a 44-member community safety team based in various parts of the province, including Prince George, Surrey and Kelowna, have been cracking down on retailers.
“We were very clear right from the beginning that as more and more legal stores are open enforcement by the community safety team will clearly be ramping up,” he said.
“After all, it’s only fair that those stores that are abiding by the rules, that are paying their fair share of taxes, don’t have their competitive advantage undermined by stores that are operating illegally.”
He said the government has been working hard to transition away from the province’s “well-entrenched” illegal marijuana industry.
One year after legalization, Farnworth says 144 private cannabis retail store licences have been issued and 33 are approved in principle, while 10 government-owned stores will be operating by the end of the year.
He said officers in the Community Safety Unit have helped reduce the availability of illegal marijuana by following up with unlicensed retailers to raise awareness about the regulations, penalties and consequences of breaking the law.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 18, 2019
Camille Bains, The Canadian Press