With cannabis legalization entering the federal election as a major issue, Kootenay-Columbia candidates debated the production and sale of the drug at a Kimberley forum, earlier this week.

The city of Kimberley recently approved several applications for cannabis dispensaries and delegates at the Union of B.C. Municipalities annual conference voted that local governments in BC have the authority to regulate cannabis dispensaries, despite federal opposition.

 

Conservative incumbent David Wilks said municipalities like Kimberley have no place licensing dispensaries and all cannabis issues should be handled by Ottawa.

“First of all, I think the federal government has dropped the ball on this one,” Wilks said. “That’s why we are where we are. I’m the first to admit that and I see the problems we have.”

Liberal Don Johnston said Canadians need to be educated on cannabis, with more research put into the drug.

“We believe that if we legalize it, regulate it and tax it, there will be huge benefits,” Johnston said. “We’re seeing this happening in Colorado, in Oregon, in Washington, in Alaska … we have lots of working examples to use data from to move on with this.”

Green candidate Bill Green said Kimberley had taken a “forward-looking step” by approving dispensaries in the city, and reiterated the Green position of legalizing recreational cannabis. Green said the separation of medicinal cannabis dispensaries will eventually disappear as he predicted the drug being available through the health care system.

NDP candidate Wayne Stetski spoke to his party’s decriminalization stance and that local and federal governments will need to work together on dispensaries.

Read more about the federal parties’ positions on cannabis here.