By TODD STONE
MLA, Kamloops-South Thompson
IT HAS BEEN CLEAR since Oct. 17, 2018, that John Horgan’s NDP government did not have an effective plan in mind for the introduction of legal cannabis.
Nine months in, the great green rush is off to a rough start here in B.C. Yearly revenue projections are down a staggering $53 million and Horgan’s handling of the shift to legal cannabis has quickly become a laughing stock across Canada, especially when compared to the progress made by previously prohibition-heavy provinces like Alberta and Manitoba.
Let’s start with the most obvious issue, which is the complete lack of private retail cannabis stores throughout most of B.C. To put the numbers into perspective, Alberta currently has 176 licensed stores province-wide, which easily dwarfs B.C’s pitiful 40 stores as of the middle of July. This is in stark contrast to the expectations laid out by the NDP government.
The black market is thriving, the legal market is sputtering and the NDP are, unsurprisingly, making it very clear that they could care less about the struggles of small business owners.
Dozens of private retail cannabis operators are severely disheartened and facing financial hardship. Small business folks around B.C. with legitimate applications are waiting upwards of eight months for provincial approvals.
These entrepreneurs are being forced to bleed money for leases and other costs they have incurred in good faith on the understanding set by the NDP that their approvals would be dealt with in an expeditious manner.
Many of these small business owners are now facing serious financial hardship as they watch the NDP dither and delay with no apparent rationale for doing so.
John Horgan willfully gave municipalities the option to decide whether to allow legal retail stores in their communities, which means if a local government opts out, there will be no local competition to the black market in that community.
One example is Surrey, which has voted to ban legal stores and has, in turn, pushed recreational cannabis consumers to the black market. The entire idea is preposterous, but here we are in John Horgan’s B.C., the joke of the Canadian cannabis industry.
The number one objective of legalizing cannabis – we were told – was to eliminate black market sales. There should be great concern that while the NDP sits idly by and refuses to approve permits to legitimate business owners, illegal sales will continue.