B.C. Reviews Laws Governing Liquor

Published in Orchard and Vine Magazine on: December 4, 2013

Laws are like a mirror that reflect the society they govern. When laws become outdated, they are no longer respected and become difficult to enforce. Laws that impact the public safety and health of citizens should stay up-to-date, which includes liquor laws that should be amended to reflect current trends in the social sector. However, as is the case with our liquor laws, needed changes are sometimes slow to occur and interested parties must lobby government to make them happen. We are now starting to see the benefits of such efforts to make changes to our liquor laws.

In early June, the British Columbia provincial government announced its plan to review and update the liquor laws of British Columbia. There will be two phases to the review.

The first began in August with requests for feedback sent to key industry groups and stakeholders. The second phase lasted from September 1 to October 31, with the creation of a website for public opinion and discussion. This type of interactive, public involvement process allows everyday British Columbians to participate in the process and have their ideas and concerns heard and addressed. After these two phases, a report was submitted in late November to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice and released to the public about any proposed changes.

The review is to modernize liquor laws so they allow for consumer convenience and economic growth, while still protecting public safety and the health of British Columbians. A major review of liquor laws has not occurred since 1999, and that review did not include a public participation process.

This process incorporates the phrase “give the people what they want”, with the intent that changes to the law must be common sense, while weighing the best interest of the liquor industry, government and the citizens.

The scope of the review is demonstrated by the number of letters that were sent by the more than 10,000 liquor licensees and liquor agency stores and the numerous groups involved in the process including First Nations, local government and police.

The review will consider licensing, distribution, manufacturing and additional issues relating to the wine industry.

Laws have historically been amended as a societal reaction to a problem meaning reforms to laws often occur when a problem has been identified. Lawmakers cannot forecast the future, but this review is a step in the right direction for bringing our liquor laws in line with today’s practices and hopefully, support continued growth of the wine industry in British Columbia.

If you would like to see what the topics of discussion are, check out the government’s website on liquor policy review at http://engage.gov.bc.ca/liquorpolicyreview.

If you wanted to see changes in the liquor laws in British Columbia, this is a participation tool that appeared to allow you the opportunity to have your ideas heard.

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