Alberta marijuana rules to resemble those of alcohol
The province's cannabis framework proposes Albertans will have to be at least 18 years old to buy pot
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There were no surprises from the province’s first draft of the Alberta Cannabis Framework released Wednesday.
The framework will eventually shape the policy ushering in recreational marijuana’s impending debut into the mainstream, legal market next summer.
Albertans can expect legal, recreational weed to look a lot like purchasing and consuming alcohol does once the federal government enacts Bill C-45 (the Cannabis Act), as the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission’s (AGLC) mandate will expand to include regulating pot in this province.
The framework proposes Albertans will have to be at least 18 years old to buy pot from the specialized retail stores selling it. Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley said the province is still deciding whether these stores will be privately or publicly owned.
“At this point I think we are open to all options,” Ganley said, noting it would take a lot of resources for the province to set up a government-run system.
Standard buffer zones and operating hours for these stores will be set by the province but municipalities will be able to set up additional zoning restrictions.
There will be mandatory education for staff selling cannabis products and customers will receive ‘standard point-of-purchase information’ about safe use, according to the framework.
Ganley said Albertans will be able to smoke or vaporize cannabis wherever they can smoke cigarettes, but consuming it will be banned in vehicles, on hospital grounds, private or public school properties and areas frequented by children, such as playgrounds or zoos.
“Our decisions were made primarily on the feedbackthat we received from Albertans and from the conversations we had with stakeholders and experts,” said Ganley.
“To prohibit public consumption, particularly in light of no-smoking rules in apartment buildings and in condos, would essentially prohibit use by a huge portion of the population – so we would sort of indirectly be circumventing the policy itself."
The City of Calgary said Wednesday they will work with the provincial government in the coming weeks to further clarify the municipal role in legalization.
“To help us identify and address the concerns of citizens and our many stakeholders, we will be conducting extensive research and engagement to gather information on citizens’ attitudes toward legalization and their views on regulating recreational cannabis in Calgary,” said Matt Zabloski, project lead for preparing the city's regulations for the legalized recreational cannabis.
Ganley said the province intends to stick with the federal government’s public possession and purchase limit of 30 grams – about 40 joints, by their estimate – but that doesn’t apply to what someone can possess at home.
There will also be a limit on how much pot Albertans can grow at home: four plants per household will be allowed (as per federal reccomendation), they’ll have to be grown indoors – greenhouses are considered indoors – and won’t be allowed to exceed one metre in height.
Initially, Ganley said cafes and lounges for cannabis consumption won’t be allowed (neither will sampling in retail shops), but that could change once the federal government establishes clearer regulations for ‘edibles.'
"We're not proposing to (allow them) right now – the reason for that is because the only thing that's been legalized at this point is smoked pruduct and that kind of takes us backward in terms of occupational health and safety," Ganley said.
She added online sales and distribution likely won’t be available right away because of concerns about age verification but it is something the province is considering.
The public will be able to provide their blunt weedback on the provincial framework until Oct. 27 before it's finalized later this winter.
New tools to address cannabis impaired driving will also be introduced in the near future, but the minister didn't elaborate except to say provincial legislation will be introduced before July 2018.
"We will be making moves to try to match our administrative sanctions regime to changes made to the federal criminal code in terms of impaired driving," Ganley said.
"Obviously the federal government has the ability to decide whether a screening device is approved or not – I understand they are working on developing and testing a device."
She reemphasized the government's priorities for legalization: keeping pot away from minors, keeping impaired drivers off the road, and diverting revenue from the black market.
Under the proposed policy, youth found in possession of less than five grams of cannabis would receive a ticket, a phone call to their parents or guardians and the pot would be seized. More than five grams would cross the criminal threshold.
More than 100 submissions from a wide range of stakeholders were weighed in total, in addition to input from more than 45,000 Albertans who took an online questionnaire about how the province should approach legalization.