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BC Tackles Illicit Cannabis Market

The BC Community Safety Unit (CSU) is attempting to tackle the illicit cannabis market in the province.

The provincial agency is responsible for compliance and enforcement under the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act. It monitors and enforces the regulations of BC’s retail cannabis industry—particularly focusing on the illegal sale and production of cannabis.

Investigators of the CSU have the authority to conduct education visits, issue penalties and seizures, and place store closures among unlicensed retailers and illegal sellers in BC. The CSU operates investigations through a variety of reactive and proactive strategies, including complaints from the public, government agencies, police, and legal market operators.

CSU Efforts

In 2023, the CSU conducted 13 education visits for a total of 329 total visits since 2019. This annual number has dropped dramatically since 2019.

It has seized $38.18 million in cannabis since 2019 with $3 million seized this past year. This number has steadily dropped over the last several years.

In 2023, the CSU closed 9 stores for a total of 230 stores closed over the last five years.

The CSU has been targeting online illicit sources in 2022, disrupting 957 of the 1,443 cases they have. $1.45 million in penalties have been collected.

Industry Response

In a recent cannabis industry update, BC’s Alliance of Beverage Licensees shared, “To some, these numbers could be taken as a positive reflection of our government’s commitment to building up our industry. For some others, however, these enforcement numbers may suggest the CSU has not been effective enough. Questions remain about what other measures (i.e., enforcement, education, product innovation, accessibility, product promotions) could be available to shrink the illicit cannabis market.”

The Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch has reviewed a number of regulatory changes this year, but none seem focused on compliance or enforcement.

Historically BC has experienced more challenges than some other provinces in displacing illicit sales, despite the fact that cannabis sales and licensed store numbers continue to increase in BC while prices drop.

Tags: BC cannabis retail (25), BC cannabis store (28), BC Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General (10), British Columbia (24), British Columbia cannabis (45), Community Safety Unit (2), illicit cannabis market (8)