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Editorials Globe editorial: B.C. plan for cannabis sales the smartest one so far

British Columbia gets pot.

"B.C. bud" is a globally recognized brand with a cachet that Okanagan vintners must envy. And a greater share of British Columbians toke up than residents of any other province, save Nova Scotia.

So it's unsurprising that our westernmost province has proposed regulations on legal marijuana that are among the most sensible, and least neurotic, we've seen.

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In rules fleshed out by the government this week, the province has committed to a hybrid approach to selling the drug. The B.C Liquor Distribution Branch will set up its own weed-only stores, but private retailers will be able to apply for licenses to run the same.

That's smart for two reasons. The first is that retailing weed exclusively out of government stores, as Quebec and Ontario are planning to do, will help the black market continue to flourish.

To stamp out the unregulated sale of pot, governments need to make their own product reasonably priced and readily accessible. With an initial batch of only 40 outlets planned in Ontario, and a mere 15 in Quebec, many consumers could find scoring a few grams in the park easier than going to a legal vendor.

That will take a bite out of government revenues, push consumers towards potentially tainted pot, and maintain the expense and absurdity of locking people up for selling a legal drug. (Ontario has set a maximum jail sentence of two years less a day for unauthorized pot sellers.)

It would be so much wiser to bring the shadowy, semi-tolerated dispensaries that currently operate in many Canadian cities into the regulatory fold, along with new entrants to the market who show they can do a responsible job of selling weed. That's effectively what B.C. is doing.

Aside from the trouble it will save, it's what consumers deserve. Weed can be harmful, especially for young people with developing brains. But millions of Canadians enjoy a toke in much the way others enjoy a glass of wine. The two vices are not so different.

B.C., with its flourishing pot culture, should know. Now it has shown that it does.

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