Rules driving pot to black market: MLA

Rules driving pot to black market: MLA

When recreational cannabis was legalized on October 17, users in B.C. were left with limited options to obtain the product. MLA Linda Larson says this is pushing cannabis back into a black market. (Vanessa Broadbent photo)

By Richard McGuire

Special to the Chronicle

By failing to have a retail system ready when recreational cannabis was legalized, the NDP government is driving people to the black market, says MLA Linda Larson.

The Boundary-Similkameen MLA is clear that she didn’t support legalization and would never have voted for it.

“But I do understand the principle behind it, which was to eliminate the black market and better control the quality of products,” she said. “I certainly support it for use in certain health-related situations,” she added. Larson made the comments in an interview with the Osoyoos Times last Thursday.

She notes that other provinces have been able to open two or three dozen stores by the Oct. 17 legalization date, but B.C. was only able to open one government outlet in Kamloops.

Boundary-Similkameen MLA Linda Larson (File photo)

At the same time, many of the existing dispensaries that have been tolerated, and which Larson refers to as “semi-legal,” have had to close, she added.

“By doing that, you have not done anything to get rid of the black market,” she said. “Because you’ve just pushed everybody to that black market more than there was before… I think you push more of it underground, so we haven’t really helped out in that regard so far.”

Larson said she knows there are more stores set to open in coming weeks, but she points out that the only current legal alternative to going to Kamloops has been to buy from BC Cannabis Stores online. There, however, the online store hasn’t been able to handle the onslaught of buyers, she said.

In contrast to B.C., Alberta currently has 43 licensed cannabis outlets.

One aspect of the B.C. legislation that Larson said she approves of is that municipalities have a choice as to whether they want cannabis outlets in their communities. But that still puts communities “between a rock and a hard place,” she said.

If you don’t have a store in your community, you push it underground, “so it’s all back alleys and stuff like that, so is it better to have a storefront and be able to control it that way? I don’t have the answer to that.”

• Read more: Recreational cannabis now legalized but harder to find in Oliver