For workers in recreational weed stores in British Columbia, the time period between mandatory criminal record checks has been extended to five years from two.
This means the first wave of legal retail staff that would have had the qualification expiring this October, won’t have to worry about the process for another three years.
On Tuesday, the province said it had amended worker qualification regulations in response to the industry’s need for security-screened staff, saying the change reduces costs for employees and ensures they can continue their jobs without interruption.
It will also allow provincial security screening resources to focus on the qualification of new workers rather than the requalification of current workers already working in the legal retail industry, the B.C. Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch said in a statement.
The update follows a number of updates to policy directives by the LCRB, many of which are in response to added pressures on businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Other changes to weed policy include the ability for retailers to offer online or phone reservations for in-store products, a directive requiring retail workers to get selling certification similar to mandatory training for B.C. liquor vendors and the removal of a previous policy that forced stores to cover their windows.
The LCRB says its security screening and re-screening requirements were introduced to keep organized crime out of the recreational cannabis market.
Restricting people with criminal records from participating in the legal industry contrasts with the approach several U.S. states have taken to correct harms resulting from enforcement of the war on drugs. California, Illinois and most recently Colorado have introduced social equity programs to give people with previous cannabis convictions a leg-up in the new legal markets.
Screenings involve background checks with police, courts and corrections databases. According to the province, 4,300 workers have been screened to date.
“All workers with a current valid security screening will have their security verification period extended from the date of their initial verification,” the LCRB said. “Security verifications for all new workers will be valid for five years.”
Since legalization, the province says it’s worked to improve screening timelines and support industry growth, while maintaining public health and safety objectives.
Top photo by Nick Laba: Frida Hallgren, store manager of Muse Cannabis on Granville Street in Vancouver on March 17, 2020