VICTORIA, B.C.- The BC Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) is working to open the first government-operated non-medical cannabis retail store by late summer 2018.

The LDB has begun exploring an e-commerce model to offer online sales to the public.

This news follows an announcement by the provincial government that British Columbians will be able to purchase non-medical marijuana from both privately-run and government-operated retail stores.

“We’re excited about planning and building online sales and a new retail network of standalone, public cannabis stores. But it’s important to keep in mind that this won’t happen overnight,” said Blain Lawson, the LDB’s general manager and CEO, in a release.

“First, we have to establish a wholesale distribution system and prepare its operations for when the federal government is expected to legalize cannabis later this year. The public retail model will be phased in over time.”

The top priority from the LDB will be to ensure safe, responsible sales of non-medical cannabis and helping ensure the product stays out of the hands of minors.

The Liquor Control and Licensing Branch (LCLB) will be in charge of licensing and monitoring the retail non-medical cannabis sector. The rules governing non-medical product stores will be similar to those currently in place for liquor retail stores.

The LCLB will launch an application tool for individuals and businesses interested in applying for a private non-medical cannabis retail license in spring 2018.

A release from the government stated that non-medical retail shops will not be co-located with any other businesses, like liquor stores or pharmacies.

There may be exceptions in the future but for now, non-medical cannabis stores will be self-contained.

Public and private stores will be permitted to sell dried cannabis, cannabis oils that comply with federal requirements, and seeds. These stores will also be able to sell cannabis accessories, as defined in the proposed federal Cannabis Act. These include items like pipes, rolling papers and bongs, etc.

Cannabis edibles are expected to be available within a year of legalization, as determined by the federal government.