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Liquor Distribution Branch begins preparing for retail and online non-medical cannabis sales

The LDB’s top focus will be on ensuring safe, responsible sales of non-medical cannabis and helping to ensure the product stays out of the hands of minors.

The BC Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) is aiming to open the first government-operated non-medical cannabis retail store by late summer, and has begun exploring an e-commerce model to offer online sales to the public.

This follows the announcement by the provincial government that British Columbians will be able to purchase non-medical cannabis from both privately run and government-operated standalone retail stores.

“We’re excited about planning and building online sales and a new retail network of standalone, public cannabis stores. But it’s important to keep in mind that this won’t happen overnight,” said Blain Lawson, LDB’s general manager and CEO. “First, we have to establish a wholesale distribution system and prepare its operations for when the federal government is expected to legalize cannabis later this year. The public retail model will be phased in over time.”

The LDB’s top focus will be on ensuring safe, responsible sales of non-medical cannabis and helping to ensure the product stays out of the hands of minors.

The Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB) will be responsible for licensing and monitoring the retail non-medical cannabis sector, leveraging its expertise in managing the licensing, regulation and inspection of liquor retailers. The rules governing non-medical cannabis retail stores will be similar to those currently in place for liquor retail stores. Public and private retailers will have similar operating rules. LCLB will be launching an application portal for individuals and businesses interested in applying for a private non-medical cannabis retail licence in spring 2018.

Non-medical cannabis retail will not be co-located with any other businesses, such as liquor stores or pharmacies. The provincial government may consider exceptions in the future but, for now, a non-medical cannabis retail store must be a self-contained business. There will be exceptions for rural stores, similar to rural liquor stores, with more information on this to come.

This decision was made based on recommendations by a federal government task force which cautioned against co-locating alcohol and non-medical cannabis. This is a position supported by British Columbia’s medical health officers. It also reflects feedback received from local governments.

Public and private non-medical cannabis retail stores will be permitted to sell dried cannabis, cannabis oils that comply with federal requirements and seeds. These stores may also sell cannabis accessories, as defined in the proposed federal Cannabis Act, such as rolling papers, holders, pipes, bongs, etc. Cannabis edibles are expected to be available within 12 months of legalization, as determined by the federal government.

Quick Facts:

  • The BC Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) will be the sole, wholesale distributor of non-medical cannabis for the province and will also operate stand-alone, public retail stores and provide online sales.
  • The Liquor Control and Licensing Branch will be responsible for licensing private non-medical cannabis retail stores and monitoring compliance of both public and private stores.
  • LDB has issued a request for proposals for an e-commerce solution and will have more information about timelines and how this solution will work in the coming months.
  • Nova Scotia and Northwest Territories are the only jurisdictions in North America that plan to pair alcohol and cannabis sales. No U.S. state that has legalized cannabis allows co-location of the two products.
  • Retail stores (both government and private) will only be allowed to sell a maximum of 30 grams of dried cannabis (or its equivalent in oil) to an individual at one time.
  • Private retail stores will not be permitted to offer online sales.
  • Unlike liquor stores, minors will not be permitted to enter non-medical cannabis retail stores, even if they are accompanied by a parent or guardian. There may be exceptions for rural businesses.