Original cannabis journalism for Canadians

B.C.'s giant government weed warehouse

The British Columbia government bought a 70,000 square foot distribution centre in Richmond to handle its weed storage and distribution. (Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press Files)

It's been a big week for cannabis news in Canada, to say the least.

The Cannabis Act was passed by Parliament and received royal assent, meaning legalization has the green light for Oct. 17. That's later than originally expected, but still — it's actually happening.

That leaves Canada's 13 provinces and territories with just 116 days to finalize their plans for cannabis sales.

To that end, the government of British Columbia announced Friday that it bought a weed warehouse. All legal recreational cannabis sold in the province will go through a 70,000 square foot distribution centre in Richmond, B.C. The venture will employ about 130 staff across its logistics, shipping and receiving, customer-care and maintenance departments, according to a press release.

B.C.'s Liquor Distribution Branch, the government body that oversees the dispersal of booze (and now pot) across the Pacific Province, now has to learn how to operate a giant cannabis storage facility. That could be a real challenge: the quality of dried cannabis bud degrades over time, and seasoned cannabis consumers don't want a product that's old, crumbly and stale.

"Measures will be undertaken to guarantee the security and quality of all products stored in the facility, including regular inventory review and stock rotation," says the LDB.

But the proof of the pudding is in the eating (or the smoking, in this case).

On top of that, the B.C. LDB needs to figure out how to sell recreational cannabis over the internet. Even though brick-and-mortar cannabis sales will be open to B.C.'s private sector, the province is monopolizing the lucrative rights to legal online cannabis sales.

For that, the B.C. LDB has tapped Canadian e-commerce giant Shopify. (No surprise there: Shopify is also running an online cannabis shop for Ontario's government weed operation.) The company has promised to provide a system that will ensure underage consumers can't buy legal weed illegally over the internet.

As the B.C. government enters the legal weed business, it has one extra challenge: public scrutiny. British Columbia is the epicentre of Canada's cannabis culture, and British Columbians are already used to buying good weed at good prices.

If the government of British Columbia can't offer those consumers a better shopping experience than they're already getting from the illicit market, that big provincial weed warehouse might start looking like an expensive boondoggle.

New on The Leaf

  • Cannabis possession charges will still be laid in Canada until marijuana officially becomes legal. (John Woods / The Canadian Press)

    Cannabis criminalization to continue: Federal crown attorneys will keep prosecuting charges like possession ahead of legalization.
  • For visual learners: Trying to understand the different regulatory regimes for medical and recreational cannabis after legalization? We've got a fresh flowchart for you.
  • Mind where you smoke: Legal medical cannabis users in Canada don't have carte blanche to light up wherever they like.

Elsewhere on the Weed Wide Web

  • Ontario premier-designate Doug Ford could change the way marijuana is sold in the province. (Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press)

    Getting the private sector's hopes up: Incoming Ontario premier Doug Ford says he will consider a private-sector role in legal cannabis sales.
  • Debating whether "legal" means "more": Common wisdom suggests people will use more weed if it's within the law, but not everyone agrees.
  • Comparing vices: The National Post puts two popular intoxicants head-to-head.

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