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Farnworth encourages legal cannabis sales, has no plan for marketing campaign

No word from Farnworth on whether B.C. could allow private retailers to sell via e-commerce for delivery
B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth speaking to media | B.C. government

B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth held a June 9 press conference to plead with British Columbians to avoid buying illegal cannabis, but he did not reveal any initiatives to entice them to buy legal cannabis.

He said the province recently collaborated with the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, and the National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health, to test 20 samples of seized illegal cannabis for contaminants. Tests showed traces of 24 different kinds of bacteria, as well as fungi and heavy metals, Farnworth said. Almost all samples included at least one of the contaminants, he added. 

"Don't buy illicit cannabis, because you don't know what's in it, and it may be contaminated," he said. 

Farnworth did not mention any plan to allow private-sector legal cannabis stores in the province to accept e-commerce orders for delivery. Nor did he mention plans for the province to have a marketing campaign where it would dispel myths about alleged shoddy quality of legal weed.

Legal private-sector cannabis stores in B.C. remain unable to sell cannabis seedlings that consumers could take home and plant. Potential cannabis gardeners' only option is to grow plants from seeds, which can be more challenging. In contrast, provinces such as Newfoundland and Saskatchewan allow residents to buy cannabis seedlings. The only B.C. residents allowed to buy cannabis seedlings are those who have medical authorizations from doctors, and who buy the plants by mail from licensed producers. 

Farnworth's government last year tweaked retail rules to allow legal private cannabis sellers in B.C. to accept online orders. The catch was that consumers must pick up the products at the business' bricks-and-mortar location. The only legal way to buy cannabis online in B.C. and have that product delivered remains the government's website.

While some legal cannabis entrepreneurs want the ability to deliver cannabis to online shoppers, some, such as Evergreen Cannabis owner Mike Babins, told Glacier Media that he believes insurance costs will make offering delivery cost prohibitive. 

"If you're doing it illegally, and you just have a guy on a bicycle, that's one thing," Babins said. "We would have to pay for the car, we'd have to pay for the insurance for the car – and most insurance companies, if you tell them you're sending out a dude in his twenties, with a bag full of weed, they're gonna charge a lot of insurance for that."

The most helpful thing that the B.C. government could do to help the legal cannabis sector is to have a marketing campaign that involves social media, TV, radio and other media, Babins said. Private cannabis retailers are limited in what they can say about cannabis because federal law prohibits them from promoting its use. The B.C. government, however, would be able to have ads that say that some legal weed for sale in the province is fresh, high-quality and grown in B.C., Babins said. 

Farnworth said the government's Community Safety Unit has shut down 160 illicit stores but he did not provide a figure for how much the province has collected in fines from illegal operators. 

He said that B.C. sold $43 million in legal cannabis in March, although that figure conflicts with Statistics Canada data.  

The nation's data collector noted British Columbians bought $41,258,000 worth of legal cannabis products in March. The last time that B.C. had record legal cannabis sales in a month was in December, 2020, when residents purchased $42,822,000 worth of cannabis products, its figures show. 

B.C. has 348 legal private cannabis stores, and 27 legal cannabis stores that are run by the government, and branded BC Cannabis Stores, according to the B.C. government. 

It is not clear how much money British Columbians are spending on illegal cannabis products. A Research Co. survey in April found that only 38% of B.C. cannabis users polled said that they bought all of their cannabis at legal retailers.

Canadians in March purchased a record monthly total of $298,132,000 in legal cannabis, according to Statistics Canada. That is the most recent month for which data is available.

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