Don’t sell marijuana in liquor stores, B.C.’s top health officials argue

Two of the province’s top doctors have said they do not want to see marijuana sold alongside alcohol in B.C.



Two of the province’s top doctors have said they do not want to see marijuana sold alongside alcohol in B.C. liquor stores.

Dr. Perry Kendall is B.C.’s provincial health officer and Dr. Marcus Lem is chairman of the Health Officers Council of B.C. They co-authored an op-ed that was published in the Vancouver Sun today (December 13) that describes two primary concerns for the idea, which is being pushed by the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union and the Alliance of Beverage Licensees.

The first issue Kendall and Lem raise is that mixing liquor and cannabis is a bad idea, and that by selling the two drugs in the same locations, that could result in more people using them together.

“The potential risk of increasing co-use of the products is an important concern as co-sale might be seen to condone and encourage co-use of cannabis and alcohol, which is particularly dangerous with respect to impaired driving,” it reads.

Their second concern is that by placing cannabis in liquor stores, the government will encourage people to use the drug who might not have had any interest in it before.

“Placing and selling cannabis in liquor stores would lead to a larger proportion of the population being introduced to cannabis, including many who might not otherwise encounter it,” they write.

Kendall and Lem note there are 868 public and private liquor stores in B.C. and that, partly in response to government marketing campaigns that encourage liquor consumption, these hundreds of shops see more than 40 million people walk through their doors each year.

“This massive exposure and availability of cannabis to all segments of the population, most of whom might not otherwise consider trying it, would most likely drive rates of cannabis use substantially higher, leading to human health repercussions and increasing health-care costs,” Kendall and Lem write.

Their conclusion is succinct: “We strongly recommend against the sale of cannabis in liquor stores.”

The federal government has said it wants recreational marijuana regulated and available across Canada by July 2018.

On December 5, the B.C. government announced that the wholesale distribution of recreational cannabis will be handled by the government’s Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB). But that doesn’t necessarily mean cannabis will be sold in B.C. liquor stores. It only means that the LBD will be tasked with moving cannabis from where it’s produced to where it’s sold to individual consumers. Marijuana storefronts like those that have proliferated in the city of Vancouver could still play a role.

The province said that details on how sales to customers will occur won’t come until early 2018.

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