CANNABIS CULTURE – Last Friday, Alberta’s government released its highly anticipated draft framework around the province’s marijuana participation. And Alberta citizens have until October 27th to voice their opinions before the framework is solidified. As Canada moves closer to countrywide legalization this July, Alberta joins Ontario in releasing its initial plans. While details lack, more should become clear after further discussions between officials, citizens and other groups. Once the proposals are finalized, Alberta plans to have a “strict legal framework” for marijuana in the area.
Final plans will address issues from production, sale, distribution and possession of pot. Many of which remain unclear at the moment.
So far, the proposal has received mixed reviews and is sure to get more in the coming days.
Alberta and Ontario’s proposals lead the country in rolling out regional specific legislature for cannabis usage in Canada. In addition to provinces, municipalities and territories are also able to shape the laws to fit the region best. Alberta’s plans come after an, “an extensive two-month engagement process with the public and representatives from affected sectors.”
Any of the proposals could change after hearing additional citizen input. For now, this is how legal cannabis usage will look in Alberta:
Alberta’s Significant Laws
Alberta’s government cited four critical areas of interest when crafting its legislation:
- Keeping cannabis out of the hands of children
- Promoting public health/minimize second-hand smoke
- Maintaining roads, workspaces and public areas safe
- Eliminating the sale of marijuana on the black market
With that in mind, the proposed legislation appears as such:
- Must be 18 or over to use cannabis
Proposed plans call for marijuana to fall in-line with alcohol and tobacco purchasing laws. In Ontario, however, users will need to be over 19 years of age. Yet, Albertans under 18 with less than five grams will have their flower seized and have their families notified. Meanwhile, if caught with more than five grams, they will face criminal prosecution for minors.
- Users permitted to possess 30 grams or less in public
Private residences can possess as much as they’d like with no limit.
- Cannabis sales must be made in specialty stores
Transactions must be separate from similar stores like alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceuticals. However, specialty cafes will not be allowed during the initial introduction.
- 30 Grams per Purchase Maximum
Keeping in line with public possession parameters, no sale can be more than 30 grams.
- No smoking or vaping in any vehicle for any occupant
Alberta officials confirmed that all driving rules will follow the federal government’s lead, as will its protocols for testing impairment.
- Each home can grow up to four plants
However, each plant must not exceed one metre and must be grown inside. All outside growth is prohibited.
Furthermore, other regulations were proposed on zoning and retail distribution. Key points include:
Hours of Operation and Buffer Zones
Specialty store hours of operation and sales buffer zones have not been set yet. However, the province intends to have this standardized by legalization.
Prices Not Set Yet
To ensure an equal marketplace, the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission intends to serve as the provincial wholesaler of all products. However, who they will be selling to remains up for discussion. The issue between private and public funded stores is yet to be decided.
Officials place price as a crucial point of concern during the initial rollout. If set incorrectly, the province could find itself with citizens opting for the black market over the new legal alternative. As one 20-year Alberta-based drug dealer said, “If it goes Ontario’s model, I become richer. If they do private, they have a chance to compete.” Additionally, with the need to pay back the province without gauging citizens, taxes will go hand-in-hand with this issue.
Public vs. Private
To ensure an equal marketplace, the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission intends to serve as the provincial wholeseller of all products. However, who they will be selling to remains up for discussion. The issue between private and public funded stores is yet to be decided.
Those in favor of government control cite more control, which could prove a stabilizing force for the market during a crucial rollout. The public option would instead make setup easier by avoiding as many government hurdles. However, the costs are expected to be higher and possibly result in more risk.
In Ontario, officials were met with lackluster sentiment over its store plans. There, the state will oversee sales in just 80 stores across the province. By 2020, Ontario should see 150 shops. How much, if at all, this impacts Alberta’s decision remains to be seen.
As expected, the framework proposal was met with an assortment of feedback. Some cannabis insiders weren’t impressed with the plans. Cannabis consultants Wendy Little and Eric Nash tweeted their discontent, citing a lack of market coverage. “For legalization to work, there needs to be a cannabis retail outlet in every tiny rural community in Canada, or black market will continue.”
Meanwhile, others appeared to remain in a wait-and-see state. With a lack of details, people like Calgary Police Chief Roger Chaffin considers it a beginning to something more, so Alberta has plans in place before legalization. “We don’t have that much time between now and when legalization occurs for us to really get ready in terms of understanding if there’s going to be any new legislation, any policy development, training that would have to occur before that time. So it’s nice to see we at least have that.”
Alberta remains like much of Canada in that it needs to resolve several critical issues before next July. Chief Chaffin’s views align with many that Alberta is in a good position with something proposed. Yet, that falls far short of what would constitute as a completed task. The country, provinces and more local authorities have quite a bit to decide one in less than a year.
Prices and taxes will be significant sticking points. As the black market is a familiar option across Canada. What Alberta and Canada as a whole do to appease all sides will likely determine the initial outcome for Canada’s legal cannabis beginnings.
Featured image of Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley courtesy CBC-online