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(Story by Matt Fetinko)

The British Columbia government is looking at the public for thoughts and opinions regarding cannabis legalization.

At the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention Monday morning, Mike Farnworth, Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General, announced a few key points the province will do.

A website has been created so the public can input their take on the issue.

“I hope British Columbians will get involved, be heard, and help us shape how we maximize public health and safety when non-medical cannabis is legalized by the federal government [in July 2018],” says Farnworth.

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“While we already have laws banning drug-affected driving, and they remain in effect, this is also an opportunity for people to let us know how we can make them stronger and more effective.”

Farnworth says the government is playing a bit of catch-up up to other provinces who have already used this strategy.

The website will be open until November 1st, 2017. This is so the province can collect the data and have a plan ready for the spring session of the legislature which begins February 1st, 2018.

The government is also forming a joint working group with UBCM to deal with local government issues.

“Local governments welcome the start of the consultation process as we move towards creating a made-in-B.C. approach to legalization,” explains Murry Krause, UBCM President and Prince George City Councillor.

“Our members want to discuss issues like taxation, retail sales, and personal cultivation in advance the regulatory framework being set in place. The proposed standing committee sounds like a good vehicle to support discussions.”

The group will be comprised of representatives and technical experts of both the province and UBCM.

“We view that as absolutely critical in achieving buy-in from local government,” Farnworth says.

Indigenous governments and organizations, and stakeholders from law enforcement, health, agriculture and other sectors will be able to speak to the Province on cannabis regulation later in the fall.

A cross-section of the industry will also be met with, a unique opportunity B.C. has that some other provinces do not.

“Unlike many other parts of the country, we know that in British Columbia there is a well-established industry,” says Farnworth.

“We want to make sure that whatever framework gets put in place in terms of distribution and retail, that we hear from the industry and all the affected groups.”

Cannabis is expected to be legalized nationwide in July 2018.

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