Sooke mayor speaks out on proposed pot regs

Sooke’s moratorium on marijuana stores remains

Mayor Maja Tait is taking a wait-and-see approach to new marijuana regulations announced by the province this week.

Anyone 19 years old and up will be able to buy recreational marijuana in B.C. once it’s legalized next July, the province said, setting the legal minimum age in line with alcohol and tobacco sales.

“We know the largest consumers of cannabis are young people in that 19- to 30-year-old age range,” said Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth. “If you set [the age] to high, at say 25, you’re not going to be able to get rid of that black market.”

RELATED: Health Canada hints at government’s plans for legal pot

Also like alcohol, wholesale distribution of recreational pot will be handled by the B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch.

The drug will also be sold by both public and private retailers, although Farnworth said the government hadn’t yet decided whether it would place marijuana on the same shelf as booze.

“Every other province is going through a provincial system,” he said, “and it allows us a significant control, which the public has said is important.”

Farnworth did not go further into taxation, zoning, local government input or what exactly the retail model will look, saying those details will come early next year.

The province is “acutely” aware, he added, that a too-high price won’t be able to knock out the black market.

RELATED: B.C. cities want more money, and more talk, on legal pot

Tait said before Sooke council can set municipal regulation, it needs to know the rules set out by Ottawa and Victoria.

“If we move forward without knowing what the province is doing, we just keep changing things over and over again,” she said.

Sooke has three medicinal marijuana facilities, but placed a moratorium on additional pot shops until after senior governments decided on how they plan to regulate the industry.

The federal bill to legalize and regulate marijuana, introduced in early 2017, received final approval in the House of Commons last week.

It now moves to the Senate, where it is likely to face heavy opposition from Conservatives who argue legalization should be delayed because the process is being rushed.

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