A 1.5-hour-long political interrogation — RAW

Published on June 11, 2021 by David Wylie

BC’s Solicitor General faced a 1.5-hour-long interrogation this week, one day after organizing a press conference to drop lab tests showing contaminants in illicit cannabis are a public heath risk.

  • RELATED: BC chooses a public relations war over enforcement

BC Liberal MLAs Greg Kyllo, representing the Shuswap, and Liberal Solicitor General critic Mike Morris, who represents the Prince George-Mackenzie riding, peppered the BC NDP Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth for an hour and a half Thursday about illicit cannabis.

Here is an excerpt of the official Hansard transcript of their exchange reprinted on the oz. for posterity:

[WARNING: Long read ahead]

Committee of the Whole – Section C

Draft Report of Debates

2nd Session, 42nd Parliament

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Afternoon Sitting

Draft Transcript


[About 2:25 p.m. PST]

Kyllo: I certainly appreciate the opportunity that’s been extended to me by my colleague from Prince George–Mackenzie to ask a number of questions specifically around cannabis.

In estimates last year, concerns around public health and safety were raised with the minister regarding the presence of pesticides, soil enhancers and other forms of carcinogens in cannabis products that are being sold legally throughout B.C. I certainly was interested to see the minister’s announcement yesterday afternoon with respect to the confirmation that there is a significant number of carcinogens that are present in cannabis products that are sold through illegal shops throughout the province.

Just as a follow-up to that particular report…. Can the minister confirm or advise if the report that he referenced in yesterday’s announcement will be made available to the public, and if so, where might one find a copy of that report?

Hon. M. Farnworth: Both the raw data and the results are public, and the blog post provides some additional information. I’d be happy to get the link for the member.

Kyllo: Thank you to the minister for that confirmation.

To the Solicitor General: I’m just wondering if you could explain to me what role the CSU had in actually conducting the report and whether the report was funded through your specific ministry. What was, I guess, the initiative for undertaking the report?

Just as a follow-up to that, any additional data that the minister might be able to provide with respect to how the report determined where they were going to actually obtain the illegal samples that formed part of their investigative report.

or undertaking a report? And just as a follow on that, any additional data that the minister might be able to provide with respect to how the report determined where they were going to actually obtain the illegal samples that formed part of their investigative report?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I appreciate the question from the member. The product would have been seized by the CSU, the community safety unit, but the analysis was done by the secretariat in collaboration with the Centre for Disease Control and the National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health.

The Chair: Members, we’re going to take a five-minute recess while we undertake cleaning and safety protocols in preparation for a new committee Chair.

[The committee recessed from 2:33 p.m. to 2:40 p.m.]

Kyllo: Thank you very much, Madam Chair, and welcome to the Chair.

Just as a follow-up, I’m wondering, has the minister shared a copy of the report with B.C.’s chief medical officer and all the different health agencies or health authorities across the province? As a further question, just wondering if the minister might be able to clarify if health authorities have the ability to demand product to be sampled from illegal cannabis outlets across the province?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I thank the member for the question.

Yeah, just want to make a couple of points, because there’s one part I did not answer in the member’s first question. That was, he says: “How was this started?” I can tell you, as minister, it was my initiative. I was getting a briefing, and I asked the staff: “Are we able to get tests on product?” So we decided to do just that.

In terms of the report that’s been done, it’s been shared, yes, with the provincial health officer and the First Nations Health Authority. It is public, and it is online. So people are able to access and read it. In terms of the second part, being able to demand product testing, I can’t answer that at this point, but I’m more than happy to look into whether or not that is something that is possible, and I’ll let you know what the answer to that question is.

Kyllo: Thank you. I appreciate that answer, and I think that we can all have some comfort in the work of our different health authorities around the province. We see defined processes that are put in place with respect to an outbreak at a grocery store, for example. If there’s product that’s identified to have contaminations that are harmful of health, there’s a clear process that is undertaken in order to provide safety and notification to consumers.

When it comes to product that is sold illegally — so, much of this product, as the minister has confirmed to us previously in the estimates process…. Much of this product is actually grown illegally, so it does not meet the federal requirements as far as cultivation. It’s also being sold illegally. I know that the minister has been clear with respect to that the cannabis legislation is understood to be under general application, which has force and effect over all lands in British Columbia.

So when it comes to product that’s being sold illegally, both through the RCMP and the community safety unit there is an opportunity to take effective and appropriate, I think, actions to administrate penalties, in order to shut down the sale of illegal product. But when there seems to be an absence of any real urgency by which the CSU unit is undertaken to shut down and provide consumer opportunity to take effective and appropriate actions to administer administrative penalties in order to shut down the sale of illegal product. But when there seems to be a real absence of any real urgency by which the CSU is undertaking to shut down — and provide consumer protection by shutting down — the sale of this illegal product, I’m just wondering if it is the intention of the minister to put additional administrative burdens onto the backs of health authorities. Now that the minister has alerted the health authorities to the fact that there’s product that’s being sold illegally that does pose some threat to public health, is it the intention of the minister to push that responsibility for public safety, then, over to the health authorities?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I thank the member for the question, and the short answer is no. The intent is not to put any administrative burden onto health authorities but, rather, to get an understanding of what is being sold illegally and to alert and bring that to the attention of the public, along with the message: “Buy legal, and you know what you’re getting.”

The community safety unit will continue to do the enforcement that they have been doing. But it is absolutely not intended to put any additional burden on any of the provincial health authorities.

Kyllo: Thank you to the minister for that response.

As a bit of a follow-up to the minister, with the recognition now that product is being not just sold illegally, contravening both federal and provincial laws, it’s now obviously come to the attention of the minister and now the health authorities and our chief medical officer that the product also poses some level of public health risk through the presence of a number of different carcinogens in product that’s being sold illegally.

Is the minister able to confirm or comment on whether ,with this additional information that now he is aware of, the CSU is going to undertake additional and increased enforcement action on the significant number of illegal operations that are selling cannabis products throughout our province?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I thank the member for the question, and the answer is yes, it will. This information will assist the CSU in their enforcement operations. I’m very pleased that we now actually have this information. But yes, the answer is that enforcement is going to continue, as we’ve seen. In fact, enforcement will continue assist the CSU in their enforcement operations. I’m very pleased that we now actually have this information.

Yes, the answer is that enforcement is going to continue. As we’ve seen, enforcement will continue to escalate.

Kyllo: In one of the news reports that I was reading, with respect to the minister’s statement yesterday afternoon, the project that was undertaken that actually led to the report was identified as being a pilot. I know that prior to moving on to questions around cannabis, an answer that the minister provided to the member for Prince George–Mackenzie mentioned the need for — I guess the efforts that are being undertaken — additional statistical analysis when it comes to public safety around organized crime, the proliferation of crime and that sort of thing.

I’m just wondering. Now that the minister has been made aware of the presence of these carcinogens in this illegal product, is the minister now undertaking to, as a matter of course or as a new standard protocol, test samples that are seized from illegal cannabis facilities?

Hon. M. Farnworth: The answer is yes. We will continue to do more testing on illicit cannabis, letting the public know that illicit cannabis does not meet Health Canada standards, that legal cannabis is tested and regulated by Health Canada to ensure that it meets their standards, and that when you buy illegal, you could be getting anything in terms of pesticides or heavy metals. Why would you want to do that when the product you can get is tested and meets all the Health Canada standards?

The answer is: yes, we will be continuing to do testing into the future.

Kyllo: Maybe as a bit of a follow-up, I’m going to ask if the minister will plan on reporting out the results of further testing of cannabis products as a matter of course. Is that something that he’s giving consideration to including in his service report on an annualized basis, going forward?

Hon. M. Farnworth: When we do testing and we get results, I’m happy for it to be made public. I don’t see any issue with that whatsoever. I’m not sure that the service plan is the right place for that. But certainly, in terms of….. Once we get information, just like this, it will be made public.

Kyllo: I certainly appreciate that answer.

I guess a further question that I have with respect to the potential role of the health authorities…. There is significant concern. There is a proliferation of illegal cannabis stores that seem to be cropping up, especially around the interior of the province. Although the minister has indicated that the CSU is taking additional enforcement action, that certainly does not seem to be the case on the ground here in the interior of B.C.

Is there a role for the different health authorities to play with the sale, and the risk to consumers, of this illegal product that continues to be sold throughout the province?

I guess a question would be: do health authorities have the ability or the jurisdiction to actually require a store to shut down? The reason I’m saying that is that we do know that if there’s an outbreak of salmonella or other public health risks at a restaurant throughout the province? I guess a question would be: do health authorities have the ability or the jurisdiction to actually require a store to shut down?

Now, the reason I’m saying that is that we do know that if there’s an outbreak of salmonella or other public health risks, at a restaurant, for example, the health authority is the immediate authority to actually close that business or to request that business to close. However, we continue to see an increasing number of illegal cannabis facilities, and although the CSU, as the minister has indicated, is taking enforcement action, I’m certainly not seeing that.

I’m just wondering if the minister might comment about the jurisdictional authority of the health authorities to shut down stores that are knowingly selling product that poses a significant risk to public health.

Hon. M. Farnworth: I’ll answer this in two parts. Certainly, in terms of education, I think there may well be a role with the health authorities. I know that the CDC has certainly expressed interest in the work that we have initiated. So that, obviously, will continue.

In terms of the ability of the provincial health officer and the health authority, for example, to do what the member is asking, I’m not meaning to skirt the issue. I think that’s probably a question that’s best directed to the Ministry of Health, who would have better information in terms of their jurisdiction to do that. I certainly will take note of the member’s query in that particular area.

Morris: The majority of our questions at this point have been with respect to marijuana and cannabis. I’m just going to ask a quick question.

I’ve seen an online advertisement actually for an illegal store — a store that’s purchasing product that’s cultivated illegally, and they’re undertaking illegal sales activities — where they’re actually promoting the sale of magic mushrooms. Now, it’s my understanding that mushrooms are actually a schedule III drug. I’m just wondering, in the instance where the ministry, RCMP or CSU are made aware of the promotion and sale of a schedule III drug, are there additional concerns that the minister has, and is there an intention for increased enforcement action on those facilities that are not just illegally selling cannabis but selling a schedule III narcotic?

Hon. M. Farnworth: In the circumstance that the member has described, that would be based on the situation, the evidence that is there. Because it’s dealing with a criminal scheduled substance, that would be taken over by the RCMP or the local detachment, in terms of a criminal investigation.

Kyllo: I appreciate the response. Just so I’m clear, the sale of what is deemed to be referred to as magic mushrooms, a schedule 3 narcotic — those concerns should be put to the attention of the RCMP and not the CSU.

Just as a follow-up to that, I’m reading an actual advertisement that was out on Facebook, basically inviting individuals to come down to purchase cannabis products, as well as magic mushrooms on sale, today. This is just one. I didn’t spend a whole lot of time scouring the Internet to have a look at this particular concern, but it was brought to my attention by a legal operator that is seeing increasing pressure and competition from these illegal operators.

If the minister can just confirm that if this concern on the sale of a schedule 3 narcotic is brought to the attention of the RCMP, my constituent would have some form of assurance that the RCMP are going to take this matter seriously and take enforcement action, post-haste.

Hon. M. Farnworth: As I said, in the case of this being a scheduled narcotic substance, as the member has outlined, that would be…

Take that concern to the RCMP. They will make further determination and investigation and take whatever operational steps that they believe need to be taken.

Kyllo: I appreciate that response. We talked a little bit about the need for additional information and statistical data to help, I guess, direct government. A term that I’ve used recently is “data drives decisions.” Last year, through the estimates process, we asked a series of question of the minister with respect to the size and scope of the illegal sale of cannabis throughout the province.

I’m just wondering if the minister might be able to provide us just a brief overview on the number of legal or licensed cannabis operators that are currently operating in the province, both in the private sector and those that are actually operated by government.

Then if you could provide a bit of context, as far as the actual number of the legal cannabis stores that they believe to be in operation at any given time throughout the province of B.C.

Hon. M. Farnworth: There are a total of 377 legal stores within the province. There are 350 private stores and 27 government stores. Of course, there’s also the online store. In terms of the illegal operations, it’s estimated that there are probably between 50 to 75 throughout the province. So those are the numbers for the member.

Kyllo: I appreciate those numbers. So 350 legal stores plus 27 government stores, for a total of 377.

Could the minister provide or shed some light on the estimated number of illegal cannabis stores in the province — what that estimation might have been a year ago versus the number that he’s shared today, which is a pretty broad range, when he indicates between 50 and 75? If the minister might be able to provide some context. How does that compare to what the knowledge of the CSU might have been with respect to the number of illegal operations a year ago?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I’m happy to provide some more context for the member.

At the start of legalization, just about 2½ years ago, there were an estimated 300 to 400 illegal operations in the province. Last year it was estimated at between 50 and 100. This year it’s between 50 and 75.

As I said, we’ve seen now 377 legal stores in the province. From March of last year to April of this year, that is a 70 percent increase. On March of last year, we were at around 200. So there has been a significant increase in the number of legal stores in the province over the last year.

That’s also reflected in terms of legal cannabis sales. In March of last year, it was about $20 million sold in that month. In March of this year, it was about $43 million sold in that month.

Kyllo: Just as a follow-up to that, when the minister is sharing with us the number of illegal stores…. I just wanted to confirm or see if the minister might be able to clarify. That is the total across the province, regardless of whether they exist on private land or on First Nations land. If the minister could just provide that additional clarity.

Hon. M. Farnworth: Yes. That is right across the province, hon. Member.

Kyllo: I certainly appreciate the additional clarity from the minister.

The minister referenced that the CSU is indicating that there are only between — I know it’s a very rough estimate — 50 and 75 illegal sales outlets. I don’t know if we’re just fortunate here in the Shuswap, but in the Shuswap riding, I have physically seen, over the last two months, a total of 20 illegal cannabis shops.

I know it’s a very rough estimate of between 50 and 75 illegal sales outlets. I don’t know if we’re just fortunate here in Shuswap, but in the Shuswap riding, I have physically seen over the last two months a total of 20 illegal cannabis shops. Obviously, Shuswap is a very small region. There’s only about 8,400 square kilometres, and it’s only one of 87 ridings in the province.

If the minister might be able to provide…. What confidence level does he have when he gives the estimated number of 50 to 75 illegal stores, when in just one small riding of British Columbia, I’m certainly familiar with, has a minimum of 20 illegal cannabis stores?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I thank the member for the question. We are quite confident in the numbers. They come to us from a variety of sources — from, obviously, complaint driven, but also, from local government, bylaw, RCMP, other legal operators. We are quite confident in the numbers.

I noticed for my own constituency, a community of 60,000, there are none. We have legal stores. But I recognize, too, that they can appear and get shut down. That does happen. But we are confident in the numbers that we’ve given you.

Kyllo: I appreciate that. When the minister indicates that there’s a process by which they identify the number of illegal stores in the province is complaints driven, largely, I’m just wondering if the minister might be able to provide some additional context.

When he references 50 to 75, that’s a pretty big difference. I would assume that, as it’s a complaints-driven process, there is a listing that’s actually established by the CSU, and I’m sure that they’re sharing that directly with the RCMP as well. I’m just wondering why there is such a variation — it’s about a 50 percent variation number — between the range that the minister has provided, from 50 to 75.

If the minister could provide just a little bit more clarity on why there is such a significant range, when I would hope that both the RCMP and CSU have a relatively finite number, within 5 or 10 percent, as far as the number of actual stores that are in operation at any given time.

Hon. M. Farnworth: I thank the member for the question. The reason for the variation is that unlike at the beginning of legalization, where there were a lot of what you would say established locations, what we’re seeing now, particularly as the market is maturing, is the expansion — the significant expansion — of the legal market.

You’re seeing what can best be described often as short-term pop-up operations that come to the attention of the CSU, come to the attention of the police. They can be short-term. They appear in a location, and then they can often disappear or get shut down, and then they’ll try and go somewhere else. It’s that kind of, I guess, opportunistic outlet that we see that often happens today, which is different from when legalization initially took place and the kinds of operations we would see at that point.

Kyllo: The minister last year, in the estimates process, indicated a desire, a strong effort by the CSU to actually work through a process of increased education to try and bring illegal shops into compliance. Can the minister provide any clarity to us on if there’s an illegal operation that’s currently in existence, do they have the ability of actually making an application for a licence, even though they’re currently undertaking illegal activities?

Hon. M. Farnworth: I appreciate the question from the member. We are operating under an administrative process. The focus now is on enforcement as opposed to education. At the beginning, it was very much education. Under an administrative process, you still have to do that. But CSU moves much quicker and faster to enforcement now, given where we are in the stage of cannabis legalization. That is now the emphasis: on enforcement, as opposed to education.

On the second question, given also where we are in terms of legalization and the fact that somebody has been operating illegally this long, I would expect that there would be significant issues in terms of getting a fit and proper licence, if somebody was trying to do that.

Kyllo: Can the minister provide any details as far as the number of administrative penalties and enforcement action that has actually been taken by the CSU in each of the last two calendar years?

Hon. M. Farnworth: Since July 2019, when the first enforcement started, there have been 67 inspections that have resulted in the retail seizure of $13.4 million worth of cannabis. There have been 25 notices of administrative penalty.

Just to remind the member, when a notice of penalty is issued, there is a right to a hearing. At this point, three of those notices have resulted in $1.2 million in penalty being paid. The actions have resulted in

When a notice of penalty is issued, there is a right to a hearing. At this point, three of those notices have resulted in $1.2 million in penalty being paid. The actions have resulted in…. So 167 location have shut, have closed, and stopped selling illegal product.

Kyllo: Thank you very much to the minister. So as we look at the illegal cannabis stores…. The minister has indicated that his numbers are showing that they’ve actually reduced across the province. We’re continuing to see a proliferation here in the interior of the province.

It’s quite apparent that these folks that are operating these stores care little for regulations. They’re obviously not meeting the federal regulation with respect to the cultivation and purchasing, requiring acquisition of products from licensed cultivators across the country. They’re obviously not following any of the existing laws and legislation in British Columbia around the retail sale of cannabis.

Then, when we have a look at…. The minister knows now, the health authorities know, that the product that is being sold in these illegal stores does pose some form of public health risk. Also, the concern that I have, certainly, and I assume that the minister would share this, but I’ll certainly provide an opportunity for him to comment….

What confidence level does anyone have, CSU or the minister, that these illegal operations are actually abiding by the other law and not selling cannabis products to minors? In my mind, an operation that is skirting and thumbing their nose at both federal and provincial laws likely, probably, cares little for who they’re actually selling product to. I just wonder if the minister might be able to comment on his concern, from a public health aspect, on what amount of sale of product from these illegal stores may be ending up in the hands of children or youth in our province.

Hon. M. Farnworth: We take it very seriously, both in terms of government and in terms of CSU. In fact, public safety and young people is top of mind and front and centre. CSU — that’s why enforcement is in place. That’s why we’ve gone out and got things tested. That’s why legalization took place in the first place.

I made it clear that this is an ongoing process. We are seeing a significant increase in the legal market, and we will continue our efforts in that area. But protection of young people and youth is absolutely a top priority.

Kyllo: I just want to give my thanks to the minister for his very concise answers. Also, thank you to my colleague and friend the member for Prince George–Mackenzie for providing me with an opportunity to participate in this estimates process.

Morris: A number of questions that my colleague asked were on my list as well. So that’ll eliminate some of it.

Are the community safety officers…? Are they mandated under the Police Act? Are they designated as peace officers under the Police Act?

Hon. M. Farnworth: Yes. First, their authority is delegated under the director, under the authority, of the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act. But also, yes, they are special constables.

Morris: Are all the community safety offices fully staffed and resourced at this particular time?

Hon. M. Farnworth: There are 44 on the org chart, and 34 of those positions are currently filled.

Morris: So there are ten vacancies. Are there steps being taken to fill those vacancies, or are they being kept vacant for budgetary reasons? Or is it work in progress?

Hon. M. Farnworth: We are working to fill those vacancies. I will say, in some locations, it is proving, actually, to be a little challenging to fill them. But we are working to fill them.

Morris: Of course, that was my next question: whereabouts are these resources located in the province?

Hon. M. Farnworth: Four regional offices: Lower Mainland in Surrey, Victoria, Kelowna and Prince George.

Morris: The federal Cannabis Act makes it a criminal offence to possess more than 30 grams of dried cannabis, or to possess cannabis obtained from unlicensed sources, or to sell cannabis or cannabis-related products without a licence. Do the community safety officers have the authority to investigate and recommend charges under the federal Cannabis Act?

Hon. M. Farnworth: the short answer is yes. But what CFSEU has been doing is using the tools that have been available to them under the provincial legislation, which gives them a different scope of powers than under the federal legislation.

Morris: I guess some of the concern I have…. I heard my colleague from Shuswap talking about 20 illegal cannabis operations within his riding alone. There have been recent drug seizures from gang and gang affiliates in Kamloops and Prince George, throughout the province, that have included fentanyl, heroin and other drugs, but also a lot of cannabis has been seized by RCMP units and CFSEU.

Does the minister suspect that illegal cannabis operations throughout the province, whether they be in communities or First Nations reserves, could be getting their illegal supply of cannabis from criminal organizations and gangs operating in the province?

Hon. M. Farnworth: It is an illegal operation that is selling illegal product, and they, I have no doubt, obtain it from a variety of illegal enterprise, some of it may be well organized, a criminal organization.

It also may be from those who are abusing the MRM, the medical licensed cannabis growing opportunity, which is pretty significant, and overproduction finding its way into the illegal market as well. I suspect it’s probably a variety of different channels where illegal product may be coming from.

Morris: I guess when I look at the prospects of criminal and gang involvement in the distribution of illegal cannabis, it elevates the situation somewhat, from a public safety perspective but also from a criminality perspective.

I do understand the benefits of doing things administratively under the provincial cannabis act and regulations, but I’m wondering where that threshold is. If it’s known criminal gang activity involved in the supply of cannabis to some of these organizations, what is the minister’s position on pursuing things criminally rather than administratively?

Hon. M. Farnworth: No, there is, I would say, a significant role for police, and they continue to play that role in terms of taking down. We’ve seen it in a number of large-scale cannabis production…. So in essence, it’s a combination of the CSU dealing with, you know, as we’ve seen, the illegal stores, but at the same time, police are still engaged in disrupting the illegal cannabis. We see that in our investigations and our operations and particularly as it relates to gangs.

Morris: Thank you for the answer, to the minister. The minister has been on record stating that the enforcement of cannabis legislation on First Nations reserves could lead to court challenges. I wonder if he could elaborate on where he sees this issue and what his position is on this.

Hon. M. Farnworth: No, that’s always a possibility. It’s not an approach that we’re wanting to see happen. It’s one of the reasons why we have been working with First Nations, and we have seen, now, an increasing number of interest in the section 119 agreements to participate legally.

Williams Lake has been, I think, a key example now. What we’re now finding is that a lot of nations are looking at that and going: “This is the right way to go.” We’ve got Cowichan, for example, and a number of other nations, actively pursuing section 119s and working with them and working with Indigenous nations to show them this is a model that will work and bringing Indigenous nations into that legal market through that. We will continue to work with them to ensure that they can take advantage of the economic opportunities by participating in the legal system through that 119 agreement.

Morris: That does lead into my next question, because I was going to raise a question about the 119 opportunities there. The ministry is currently in negotiation with several First Nations communities and with respect to opportunities under 119.

But I go back to our committee stage on the amendments to the provincial cannabis act and the fit and proper section of that — very comprehensive and very restricting on who can apply and on associates of who is applying in that manner.

I’m wondering what the minister’s thoughts might be with respect to those opportunities with First Nations bands and band councils that have been supporting the illegal cannabis operations within their community.

Hon. M. Farnworth: No, the member is right. It is laws of general application, and the process is it goes through that full fit and proper process of the individual that is making that application. The general manager has a broad range of discretion to not only look into the person who’s doing the application but, if they start to find things, to broaden that out.

What we have seen, to date, is that that process has been working. There has not been a reluctance, I’d say, in terms of us being able to recognize the section 119 is the right way to go. And when the application is in, they know that this process is in place.

Morris: If my recollection serves me correctly, under the fit and proper section of the provincial cannabis act, there’s a particular section, I think, that provides some pretty definitive terms to the security officer or the general manager when it comes to receiving information indicating that an applicant or an associate of the applicant…. And there’s quite a list there. He must turn them down — I don’t think it gives him any leeway, or her or whoever that person is — if there’s any evidence or information of criminal involvement.

I go back to my earlier question. The federal cannabis act makes it a criminal offence to sell or possess illegal cannabis. It doesn’t matter where it is in the province here. It’s pretty restrictive there.

So I’m just wondering and hoping maybe there might be an educational program out there for a lot of these First Nations communities that are allowing this to take place within their communities — that this is criminal and could jeopardize their opportunities under 119 perhaps. I don’t know.

They could jeopardize their opportunities under 119 perhaps. I don’t know.

Hon. M. Farnworth: As I said, there is the thorough fit and proper process. The general manager does have discretion. All of those things come into play in terms of background checks and everything else.

The member also does raise a very good point around the education. That’s why, within the cannabis secretariat, we have a working group that works with the First Nations Leadership Council in terms of, on that, the role of a section 119, how it can benefit, the advantages of that. Part of that discussion is: “Here are the risks of being outside of that system.”

That’s why we are now seeing considerable interest, particularly as we’ve got those first agreements in place. Nations are able to see…. It’s gone from, as we talked about on a different topic, the conceptual to the actual. Here’s how it works, here’s how it benefits, and here’s the path which you can follow.

Morris: Good to hear. Like you said, it’s a transition that we’re going through, and it will have some growing pains over the early years here.

One final question under the LCRB regime that we’re in right now. This deals with liquor licences. I understand that the responsibilities have been divided up between this ministry and Finance. So I’m not sure whether this question pertains to your ministry. I’ve had a number of constituents from various areas in the province talk to me about the province having a freeze on new beer and wine store licences until June of 2022.

Would that fall under this ministry, or would that be the responsibility of somebody else?

Hon. M. Farnworth: Just one quick correction. It expires July 1, 2022. The moratorium is in place. I fully expect the moratorium to continue. I’m dealing with that in my ministry at the current time. I will have more to say on that in the not-too-distant future.

The Chair: I’m going to call a five-minute recess and ask that all of those that are on virtually, please come back with your cameras on sharp at 4 p.m. So a five-minute recess.

We’ve done our best to transcribe this accurately.

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