The Alberta government released a draft framework Wednesday outlining the options they are looking at to begin addressing the legalization of cannabis. The province will be continuing to get public feedback until Friday, Oct. 27 at midnight, when they will then begin to put together a specific framework for cannabis sales, distribution, age limits and more.
The government says more than 45,000 Albertans responded to their online survey and the provincial government has completed meetings with over 100 stakeholder and sector groups, including indigenous groups, private industry, municipalities, the AGLC, health-care providers, law enforcement and members of the transportation and labour sectors.
The framework priorities include: 1) keeping cannabis out of the hands of children and youth; 2) protecting public health; 3) promoting safety on roads, in workplaces and in public spaces; and, 4) limiting the illegal cannabis market.
The legal age to possess, purchase or consume cannabis in Alberta will be 18 years old, which is consistent with the legal age for tobacco and alcohol. Other provinces with public plans are also aligning with the drinking age, which is consistent with the recommendations of the federal Task Force findings and US jurisdictions that have legalized.
Oversight and distribution
The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission will be given the mandate for oversight, compliance and distribution of non-medical cannabis in Alberta. They will serve as a central wholesaler for all products. The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission will ensure “postage stamp” distribution costs, that only legally produced, federally regulated cannabis products are sold in Alberta, and that there is a level playing field for large and small producers.
Alberta is not changing the public possession limit for adults set by the federal government (30 grams). This is consistent with public possession limits in all other jurisdictions and will also be the limit on how much can be purchased at one time. It is not a limit on what can be in a person’s home.
Alberta will have zero-tolerance for youth possession. Possession under five grams, which is not addressed in federal legislation, will be subject to seizure, notification of parents or guardians and a ticket, while possession over five grams is subject to the Criminal Code.
Cannabis retail stores
Only specialized cannabis stores will be allowed to sell cannabis products. There will be no co-location with alcohol, tobacco or pharmaceuticals, and there will be standard provincial zoning buffers and hours of operation. Municipalities will be able to further restrict based on local needs. All retail staff must be 18 years of age. Additionally, there will be standardized education for all retail staff and standard point-of-purchase information on safe use.
The province says they are not decided on what types of retail stores they may allow, either run by the province, run privately, or a mixture. The Alberta government says the upfront cost of a crown-run corporation would be significant, but could be effective long-term for controlling sales effectively. Using a private retail system similar to how Alberta regulates alcohol sales would be harder to manage, says the province, but could be more responsive to consumer needs.
Potential other retail options
Online sales may not be part of Alberta's initial system, although they are looking at options long-term. The government is investigating how age verification can be assured at both point of purchase and delivery. Cannabis lounges will not be considered in Alberta until the federal government provides clarity on edibles regulation, at least initially. At least one national retail chain, Couche-Tard, has been lobbying the Alberta government for retail sales.
Growing at home
Alberta will maintain the federal limit on the number of plants per household and height restrictions (these height restrictions may no longer be a part of the federal framework). The limit is four plants per household (not per person). These restrictions are consistent with US jurisdictions. Alberta will also limit where plants can be grown on a property—growing cannabis for personal use outside will be banned. Secured greenhouses would be considered okay.
Public cannabis use will be restricted to protect children and limit second-hand exposure. Smoking or vaping cannabis will be banned anywhere smoking or vaping tobacco is banned. Smoking or vaping cannabis will also be banned on hospital grounds, school properties (both private and public) and near areas frequented by children, such as playgrounds, childcare facilities, sports fields, skateboard parks, outdoor pools, splash parks, zoos, and public washrooms.
The province will introduce new tools to address drug-impaired driving and align with Bill C-46. Specific programs are still under development but legislation will be introduced before July 2018.
The Department of Labour continues to work with labour groups and employers to support workplace safety. Specific programs are still under development and any required changes will be in place by July 2018.
Taxation and revenue
The Government of Alberta continues to work with the federal government on taxes.
Image via Wiki Commons