Alberta municipalities want their say in the legalization process

An outline of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association's response to the recent Task Force report.

The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) responded to the federal government’s Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation’s call for input through a public letter released on August 3rd, 2016. In it, they address the federal government’s five key themes and highlight what they see as concerns and opportunities moving forward.

Overall, the AUMA’s input reinforces two key points:

1) Given that Municipalities and their officers will be at the frontline of delivery and implementation for whatever regime is developed in the end, the federal government must continue to engage with cities to ensure they are included in the decision making process.

2) Cities already have the tools in place to manage much of the oversight that will be needed — including zoning powers, licensing bodies, and enforcement officials. They will however, require training, support and clear guidance from the federal government before moving forward.

Areas of biggest concern

The AUMA highlights four key concerns throughout the document:

  1. Marketing and labelling: There is a need for strict labelling and restriction on the potency of THC in products with particular concern for edibles, the AUMA contends. They also want to see similar restrictions on marketing and advertising imposed on the industry to those we see in the current cigarette market.
  2. Home growing: The AUMA is very concerned about the potential security and health and safety risk of home growing (note: this letter was released before the updated ACMPR was revealed in late August 2016). In particular, they want strict rules in place on the number of plants that can be grown at home, as well as clear insurance and security protocols. Further, the AUMA has called for clear rules to be provided to law enforcement officials so they are able to easily identify legal home grows from illegal production facilities.
  3. Driving under the influence: The AUMA sees an opportunity for Canada to take a leadership role in the research and development of new tools to monitor and enforce current impaired driving rules, including the development of accurate roadside testing. They also call for a public health and education campaign on the dangers and alternatives to impaired driving to run in parallel with legalization, similar to past campaigns on drinking and driving.
  4. Proliferation of storefronts: While the AUMA acknowledges the need for some form of storefront access for recreational cannabis to be introduced in order to compete with the ease of access provided by the black market, they are concerned about the normalization and proliferation of marijuana that could accompany the introduction of privately run storefronts. Instead, they suggest that marijuana be dispensed through existing locations - such a post offices or pharmacies.

The letter is as interesting for what it does say as it is for what it declines to say. In particular, the AUMA chose not to respond to two points of concern that have been very topical in other jurisdictions: namely, what age limit should be imposed on the use of marijuana for personal use, as well as what role the current medicinal Licensed Producers should play in a recreational market. However, given that there is only one LP currently in operation in Alberta, it is not surprising that the Association has little stake in that conversation.

The AUMA appears open and ready to handle to the legalization of cannabis, and has made it clear that they, along with their municipal counterparts across the country, should remain key contributors in the development of future regulations.

The AUMA will also be discussing the municipal implications of marijuana legislation at their upcoming convention in early October. Panel description — attendees will learn from a panel of industry and legal experts: the current state of the law, who is entitled to produce, what standards/regulations municipalities are required to comply with, home grow and what it means for municipalities, what legalization may look like, and  what municipalities should be doing to prepare for the changes in this industry.

 

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