Richmond, one of Canada’s most anti-cannabis cities

Richmond, BC, may be Canada’s most anti-cannabis city after its city council voted unanimously to oppose legalization on Oct. 25th, and the city is sending a letter outlining their reasons why to the provincial and federal governments.

Richmond also stands out for not having any cannabis dispensaries within its limits and if the city gets its way, it would stay like that. The city has asked for increased powers to regulate cannabis that, if granted, would allow them to ban cannabis sales outright, but that is not guaranteed yet.

Richmond City Council calls cannabis a gateway drug

As Coun. Derek Dang told the Richmond News, “If you became an alcoholic, I don’t think you would start drinking the hard stuff first. You drink a beer then work your way up. We’ve already got drug problems with fentanyl, and it could be problematic.”

Ignoring how misinformed it is to compare cannabis with fentanyl, everyone can agree that the opioid epidemic is a crisis. But legalizing cannabis will not make it worse, as some are suggesting. It could actually make things better- since legalizing cannabis two years ago, Colorado’s opioid-related deaths have dropped by 6.5%.

But Richmond is also standing against popular opinion in BC with 70% of the province supporting  legalization in a recent Insights West survey.

A petition to suspend legalization

The Richmond-based July 2018 Marijuana Legalization Concern Group also opposes legalization completely, and they want the federal government to postpone or suspend the July 2018 deadline.

As stated in their petition, “if the federal government insists on legalizing marijuana in 2018”, they have a number of recommendations, including:

  • Minimum age of 21
  • No edibles
  • No personal cultivation allowed
  • Setting stricter rules related to marijuana use than those on smoking and drinking
  • Being strict on illegal marijuana operations
  • Delegating municipalities with the authority to make stricter bylaws according to the wishes of their residents
The July 2018 Marijuana Legalization Concer Group at their Oct. 13 press conference. Photo credit: Richmond News

At the group’s press conference on Oct. 13th, their leader, Councillor Chak Au, said “Once the gate of legalization is opened, it cannot be reverted back. We need to work together now to prevent the social problems that may be caused by legalization later.”

The group is asking for a higher minimum age than what BC is proposing, and also wants a ban on edibles and personal cultivation- all in the name of protecting children. But with tobacco and alcohol allowed at 18 and 19, respectively, at least it’s in line with their recommendation that cannabis be treated more strictly than alcohol or tobacco, but at the same time, they also offer no justifications for why cannabis should be treated more strictly.

They contradict themselves in their recommendation to be strict on illegal cannabis operations while opposing legalization entirely because their position only encourages a thriving illegal market. If they have their way, either people will continue to illegally buy cannabis in Richmond, or drive to a city that allows sales.

Also, banning edibles and personal cultivation in the name of protecting the children is conflating two separate issues.

With edibles, there is a chance that kids could accidentally eat them and that’s why they need to be clearly labelled and kept out of their hands- but that also applies to anything in our medicine or liquor cabinet. Besides, edibles have many benefits such as being less harmful on the lungs, for one. To ban edibles gives cannabis users less freedom because not everybody likes to, or even can, smoke cannabis.

If a child was nibbling on a cannabis plant they won’t get high because you need to prepare the leaves and decarboxylate it in order to activate the THC. Many do this by smoking it.

As we can clearly see, many of the group’s recommendations suggest a fundamental lack of understanding of cannabis and the good it can do.

Is Richmond too conservative for cannabis?

As Coun. Carol Day told CBC, “This is a suburb. We’re not the heavy duty nightlife of Downtown Vancouver and the action-packed thrill of adventure of Surrey. In Richmond, we tend to live a more conservative lifestyle”.

Vancouver Councillor Kerry Jang shared similar sentiments to the Globe and Mail saying, “You’ve got a place like Richmond that has a huge Chinese population – which is very anti-drug, period – I’d be surprised to see [a store selling legal cannabis] in Richmond. That’s got nothing to do with cost or legislation – it’s just the community saying, ‘We want nothing to do with it.”


Sources Delay the legalization of Cannabis.

The Georgia Straight: New data continues to support the idea that legal cannabis access leads to fewer opioid-related deaths.

Globe and Mail:

Globe and Mail: Richmond, B.C., pushes back against sale of legal cannabis.

Richmond News: City council sticks by anti-pot position.

Richmond News: Crusade launched in Richmond to postpone marijuana legalization.