BC government cannabis officials face tough crowd

Published on April 28, 2022 by John McDonald

Photo: John McDonald/the oz.
BC Cannabis Secretariat representative David Coney got a grilling from a room full of cannabis producers and retailers during the inaugural BC Cannabis Summit. 

A move to ease the rules around the sale of cannabis between private dispensaries and licensed producers in BC isn’t going to help much unless the provinces drop their share of the cut, cannabis retailers say.

“There’s no real incentive here because they’re not dropping the 15 per cent excise tax,” explained Cory Waldron, after an update on the industry from the BC Liquor and Cannabis Regulations Branch and the provincial Cannabis Secretariat.

The regulations branch has announced federally licensed cannabis producers will be able to sell directly to private dispensaries in BC beginning this fall, ending a requirement cannabis be distributed through the government.

LCRB manager of policy and legislation Leanne Davies and Secretariat representative David Coney got a grilling from a room full of cannabis producers and retailers during the inaugural BC Cannabis Summit, April 20-22 in Kelowna.

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Waldron represents the Association of Canadian Cannabis Retailers and says BC dispensaries might enjoy a wider selection of cannabis sources with the move but retailers will still have to pay the 15 per cent tax, even though the province will not have to physically handle the new products.

“Direct delivery sounds great but from a retailer’s perspective there’s not much advantage for me to buy direct from the producer,” he said. “You still have to use direct debit, you cannot use your credit card and I will probably have to pay more in shipping.”

Waldron said his group has pressed the government to end the excise tax but did not get a clear answer about why it remains. “They just say it’s fine where it is. It’s a cash cow for them,” he added. “Even if we could meet them halfway that would be something we could work with.”

According to LCRB manager Davies, as of April there were 410 federally licensed cannabis producers located in BC, including 109 standard producers, 69 micro-producers and a further 41 nurseries and medical sales producers.

Their products are distributed through 411 private dispensaries and 33 government retail stores.

Some 32 percent of British Columbians report using cannabis last year. Of them, 55 per cent purchased it through legal sources, 19 per cent mixed it up while just eight per cent still get their cannabis solely from the black market. Another 18 per cent grew their own or were given it by someone else.

The panel session ended with more questions than answers but David Coney with the Cannabis Secretariat invited audience members to email him their questions and concerns.

“Cannabis touches on a lot of different parts of the provincial government; health and safety, agriculture, finance, economic development,” Coney said. “Our job is to coordinate and balance the various competing interests.”