Canada will legalize recreational cannabis on Oct. 17 and the business community needs to prepare for the opportunities and challenges to come.
Legalization is causing waves across all three levels of governments, from big picture concerns about crossing international borders to everyday issues such as whether cannabis retailers can operate in your neighbourhood.
Breaking it down, Ottawa will continue to be responsible for criminal activities and rules regarding cultivation and processing.
Provinces will regulate workplace safety, wholesaling and the retail model. In B.C., the provincial government has identified 31 smaller suppliers who will provide product to the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch. The LDB plans to offer a range of cannabis varieties to licensed private retailers through an online sales portal. The LDB will also open B.C. Cannabis Stores, similar to public liquor stores, at various locations across the province.
Local governments will play a vital role in how the public can access cannabis by deciding where retailers can locate, how they can operate within their communities and which ones to license.
Education is one of the areas of responsibility that crosses all three levels of government and is being addressed federally, provincially and municipally.
As Greater Victoria’s Chamber of Commerce, we work on behalf of business and advocate for regulations and policies that build good business and improve the economic vitality of our region’s entrepreneurs, employers and citizens. We want to play an active and forward-focused role in helping businesses in this emerging industry establish themselves as good members of the business community. So, with the October legalization date imminent, we have begun to work with companies that are abiding by the rules as they exist today, which means they have a business license in Victoria.
Fortunately, the City of Victoria has been proactive and has developed a rigorous process for licensing cannabis retailers that is serving as an example for cities and towns across Canada.
Governments are acting because public perception about cannabis has shifted. A 2016 study by Deloitte Touche shows more people support legalization than oppose it, and youth in particular believe that cannabis is less harmful than alcohol. The research also shows young people want accurate information about the effects of cannabis rather than relying on anecdotal evidence offered by their peers. Canada is now the world leader in this industry and there will be lots of ground-breaking research and development.
If you’re interested in learning more, I encourage you to attend our “The Business of Cannabis” luncheon on Oct. 10, from 11:30 to 1 p.m. at the Hotel Grand Pacific.
Our expert panel will include Jocelyn Jenkins, Chief Administrative Officer with the City of Victoria, and Peter Guo, BC Enterprise Risk Services Leader and BC Cannabis Industry Leader with MNP.
Catherine Holt is CEO of The Chamber (Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce).