Editorial: We’re still waiting for legal cannabis

Does it really need to take this long?

It’s been nearly six years since, speaking at a Kelowna rally, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced he would rather see cannabis legalized instead of just decriminalized.

Back then he was just plain old Justin, on the campaign trail trying to garner votes and reinvigorate the federal Liberal party. Two years later, the Liberals cruised back to power on that promise and others.

You have to wonder if the promise of legal recreational cannabis is going to be substantially complete before the next federal election, this fall.

It’s not entirely the Liberals’ fault that we’ve yet to see a thriving cannabis industry. Though it took three years—three months later than the July 1, 2018 date first promised—they did deliver on the legislation last October.

But even though they had those three years, provincial and local governments didn’t really get started on their own legislation until, effectively, the last minute.

So far, relatively few cannabis retailers have been able to open across Canada. Notably, the first to open in B.C. was a provincial government-operated store in Kamloops. But most of the many applications from hopeful private retailers in the Comox Valley and around the province are still waiting for the dual approval they need from the province and their municipal government.

It’s not that getting a licence to sell cannabis should be easy. It shouldn’t, and there are countless obstacles and social issues that need to be dealt with.

But with three years’ warning, there is little excuse for provincial and local governments not to have been better prepared to resolve those problems and implement legalization, which was a popular idea long before the Liberals decided to run with it.

Governments should have had frameworks, laws and bylaws ready to go by the time legalization legislation dropped, only needing fine tuning to match the fed’s ideas.

By now, most of the applications should have been either approved or denied, with private operators starting to add to local and provincial economies, and driving the black market farther underground.

You would think governments didn’t want the tax money that cannabis retail stores are going to generate.

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