(Recasts; adds comments from provincial safety minister, dateline)
By Nicole Mordant
VANCOUVER, Feb 5 (Reuters) - British Columbia said on Monday it would set up a chain of government-run shops and license private stores that would sell recreational marijuana only, the latest of Canada’s provinces to unveil sales strategies for pot just months before it is legalized.
Mike Farnworth, the province’s public safety minister, said recreational cannabis would not be allowed to be sold in the same stores as liquor or tobacco in Canada’s third-most populous province.
In urban areas, licensed retailers would only be allowed to sell pot and pot accessories, and would be prohibited from selling other items, such as food, gas and lottery tickets.
Exceptions would be made to this rule in rural areas, where there is more limited access to retailers.
Recreational marijuana is on track to be legalized in Canada by July, making Canada the first Group of Seven country to allow the drug nationwide and just the second in the world after Uruguay.
British Columbia’s policies on pot “are driven by our priorities of protecting youth, promoting health and safety, keeping the criminal element out of cannabis and keeping our roads safe,” Farnworth said in a statement.
Recreational marijuana could not be sold to anyone under 19. The government would also run online sales.
The Pacific Coast province aimed to open its first government-run and private recreational pot stores by late summer, Farnworth later told reporters.
Although the province did not put a cap on the number of retail licenses available, they would not be issued without the backing of local municipalities, which could say what their communities needed.
While the federal legislation proposed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government will regulate cannabis production, the details of who can sell it and who can buy it has been largely left up to the country’s provinces.
In Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick, cannabis sales will be run by provincial government-owned entities. The western provinces of Manitoba and Alberta have said they will license private retailers. (Reporting by Nicole Mordant in Vancouver; editing by Alistair Bell and G Crosse)