Distributing Recreational Cannabis

Why are Liquor Stores the Best Option?

As he’s determining the best method to distribute recreational cannabis, the Prime Minister’s key goals are to reduce access to underage youth and get rid of the black market.

According to a presentation given at the recent BC Liquor Conference by Neil Boyd, Professor, School of Criminology, Simon Fraser University, liquor stores are the “best option if you want to eliminate the black market and reduce underage consumption.”

Boyd outlined five options that could be considered for distributing cannabis: pharmacies, mail order, retail dispensaries, home grows and liquor stores.

Pharmacies – This channel could distribute cannabis in a pill format or a form that could be smoked. It would need to be determined if cannabis would be sold by prescription or as an over-the-counter product.

Mail Order – The concern with this option is that it probably wouldn’t displace the black market. However, it would be useful to service very remote areas of the country.

Retail Dispensaries – Municipalities would need to zone for dispensaries, so this distribution channel would be at the whim of each municipality.

Home Grows – These would service only a small part of the recreational market, so this distribution option wouldn’t get rid of the illegal market or reduce the access to youth.

Liquor Stores – This industry is already highly regulated with I.D. checking requirements and all provinces have some form of Serving it Right certification, so staff know not to sell to someone who is intoxicated. Employees’ knowledge could be expanded to learn more about cannabis and its effects in conjunction with alcohol.

There are already liquor policy directives that stores must comply with along with strong enforcement measures to ensure compliance, particularly in the case of selling to underage youth.

Liquor stores already exist in most communities, so cannabis would be readily accessible to all Canadians. It would also generate revenue for government, just as alcohol does. The product would need to be priced at a point that it would take the black market out of the cannabis industry, much like the black market for liquor disappeared after Prohibition.

The task force’s report detailing issues, such as where marijuana should be sold and the legal age to consume it, is due to be handed over to the federal government at the end of November and the Liberal government has vowed to put forward legislation in spring 2017.