B.C.’s first government cannabis store opens in Kamloops, October 2018. The city is getting two more government stores this year. (Black Press files)

B.C. VIEWS: Will the NDP lose money selling marijuana?

Government monopoly sounds great, if you work there

Licensed private marijuana stores are finally starting to flower in B.C., with StarBud launching in the Okanagan and Clarity Cannabis aiming for a September opening in Prince Rupert, among others.

Meanwhile, the (cough) informal marijuana market seems to be rolling along as B.C. wanders toward the first anniversary of cannabis legalization. Here in Victoria, retail stores started opening up years ago, usually with some token nod to “medical” customers, and our famously inept city council started issuing business licences well in advance of federal legalization.

Why? Well, Vancouver was doing it, and in both of these Left Coast social laboratories, federal laws may be viewed more as suggestions. (For example, just declare yourself a “sanctuary city” and instruct your police not to inquire into anyone’s citizenship status. Poof, no more Canadian immigration law.)

In the weed business, illegal operators seem to be doing better than federal and provincial wholesale monopolies. In some cities, consumers have no ready way to tell if a pot store is provincially approved, or has even bothered with a business licence.

Government competition has caused the black market to sharpen its pencils. Statistics Canada estimates that as legal weed prices rise above $10 a gram, illegal producers are cutting consumer costs down towards $5.

RELATED: Langley residents protest huge pot greenhouse smell

RELATED: RCMP seize guns, cash, marijuana headed for Europe

The B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch is doing a great job on its slick-looking retail chain – in Kamloops, anyway. The home of the first B.C. Cannabis Store is about to get two more, and people are lining up to apply for the intensive training offered for unionized “budtenders.”

Anticipating the price problem, the LDB was restrained to a mere 15 per cent wholesale markup. Its monopoly on federally-licensed suppliers is an extension of its liquor wholesale monopoly, which marks up a bottle of hard liquor by 124 per cent, whether it’s sold in a public or private retail store. Then you pay taxes on top of that.

Local politicians are preparing for the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in September, where the discussion about their cut of B.C. revenues will no doubt continue. (Another topic is the local share of fine revenue from the “not photo radar” cameras that will soon be issuing speeding tickets by mail.)

The LDB also has the online cannabis sales monopoly, where you can use your credit card to order products with names like Kinky Kush that come in amazingly over-packaged Canada Post secure deliveries. A few, er, kinks still need to be straightened out in this government workers’ paradise, such as popular strains running out and others arriving mouldy from sitting too long in a warehouse.

Growers and grey-market dispensary operators warned early on that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s vision of legalization would lead to shortages. One buzz-killing result of this is the accusation that a publicly traded grower in Ontario concealed the true size of its crop from Health Canada inspectors. Perhaps their chosen brand, CannTrust, wasn’t the best one.

I hope you don’t spend too much time on Twitter, but if you do, check the hashtag #4plantscup. There you will find experts competing to maximize the yield from the four cannabis plants individuals are now allowed to grow at home for personal use.

This is perhaps the biggest long-term threat to the provincial-federal monopoly. As long as home grows are kept discreetly out of sight and don’t obviously exceed size and commercial restrictions, police will devote their time to more pressing concerns.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press Media. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Realtors Care Blanket Drive coming in November

Numerous drop-off locations for the public at real estate offices in Maple Ridge

Union protests rising violence in B.C. prisons

Noon-hour event at Alouette Correctional Centre for Women

Burned out renters can’t find housing in Maple Ridge

Tight rental market, high rent costs create desperate situation

Outgoing president proud of Chamber’s business advocacy

Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows chamber holds AGM

New holiday campaign to make Maple Ridge glow

Includes Christmas concerts, lights and outdoor speakers

B.C. to restrict nicotine content, bring in 20% tax on vaping products

Province will also restrict candy and fruit flavoured vaping products to adult-only stores

Province working with RCMP to address the force’s B.C. budget cuts

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth issues statement following report of RCMP cost-cutting

Louis C.K. accuser ‘infuriated’ by Canadian comedy booker’s defence

Accuser says she did not consent to C.K. undressing and masturbating in front of her

Extreme career fair draws hundreds to Langley Events Centre

Black Press event included more than 60 employers

Port Moody mayor says stayed sex assault charge related to ‘awkward date’

Rob Vagramov said charge was related to a string of dates in 2015

UBC conference faces criticism over speaker from Chinese tech company blacklisted in U.S.

The company that has been blacklisted by the U.S. over links to the repression of China’s Muslim minority

‘City that protects rapists’: Sexual assault survivor slams Kelowna mayor for defending RCMP

Heather Friesen spent the morning handing out flyers around city hall calling out the mayor

Union ‘not at all’ optimistic that transit strike will resolve before full work stoppage

Overtime ban could disrupt 10-15 per cent of bus service in Metro Vancouver

‘It’s been 12 years’: Father of murdered B.C. real estate agent pleads for mayor’s help

Lindsay Buziak was stabbed to death on Feb. 2, 2008 in Saanich. Her case is unsolved.

Most Read