Is Selling Marijuana at Liquor Stores a Good Idea?

CANNABIS CULTURE – Should marijuana be sold at liquor stores? One of British Columbia’s largest unions thinks so and has teamed up with private liquor stores in the province to lobby the government for permission to do so once it’s legal.

What at first might make some marijuana activists cringe – the idea of associating a virtually harmless plant with with a substance scientists say is more harmful than crack and heroin – could have some big benefits for marijuana consumers. There’s also a fair share of possible downsides.

The B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) – which represents government liquor store workers – and the B.C. Private Liquor Store Association are an unlikely pair who don’t usually see eye to eye. But according to BCGEU president Stephanie Smith, the two groups are in a unique position to sell marijuana.

“Liquor stores provide the most strictly controlled system for accessing a controlled substance, and are best suited for the retailing of non-medical marijuana,” she said.

The Globe and Mail reported on some of the details the partners had in mind:

Damian Kettlewell of the private liquor association — made up of more than 200 private liquor stores in the province — said they envision a system that is similar to beer and wine industries.

Producers of all sizes would sell their product to a central wholesaler at the liquor distribution branch, which would then distribute it to stores.

Kettlewell stressed that the groups only want to sell recreational pot, not medical marijuana.

He also said the federal government should follow in the footsteps of American states that have allowed residents to grow small amounts of marijuana at home for personal use — similar to home brewing.

“As activists, we’ve been calling for the ‘wine model’ for cannabis for quite some time,” Dana Larsen, long-time marijuana activist and founder of The Medicinal Cannabis Dispensary in Vancouver, told Cannabis Culture. “Putting cannabis in liquor stores makes it impossible for cities to block them. If we tried to launch cannabis-only stores, many cities will block them with bylaws. However, this doesn’t preclude cannabis-only stores.”

Having marijuana readily available at the nearly 900 private and public liquor stores in B.C. would undoubtedly be a pretty big foot in the door for the pot folks.

The BCGEU and Liquor Store proposal says the partners would “work alongside the existing and regulated distribution system of marijuana for medical use.”

But what about the issue of an unfair monopoly? As the CBC reported,

Wednesday’s announcement drew criticism from longtime B.C. pot seller Don Briere, owner of Weeds, Glass & Gifts Ltd., a chain of stores that sells cannabis products.

“If these guys want to push us out, that’s totally wrong,” Briere said, arguing that marijuana advocates and retailers have earned the right to step into the cannabis industry, once …. “People have put 20, 30 years in this industry and they’ve worked hard and they’ve suffered hard.”

“They didn’t ask for a monopoly,” Larsen told CC. “In their press release they stated support for dispensaries, for private outlets and for personal growing. Their proposal would allow private cannabis vapor lounges, just like we have private bars and pubs.”

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union also recently called for marijuana to be sold in LCBO liquor stores.

Briere said cannabis and alcohol should not be sold in the same location. “Alcohol and cannabis do not mix. People get whacked out enough as it is. You get a drunk person buying cannabis and they smoke that – it’s like mixing all your prescription pills and drinking.”

“I don’t like putting cannabis in with alcohol,” Larsen said, “but this would get legal cannabis into every city and town across B.C. right away, and that is a big advantage.”

Do you think selling marijuana in liquor stores is a good idea? Let us know in the comments below.


Jeremiah Vandermeer
Jeremiah Vandermeer

Jeremiah Vandermeer is Chief of Operations of Cannabis Culture and Editor of Cannabis Culture Magazine & Pot TV.