Alberta releases first draft of rules for legal consumption of marijuana
The NDP government has released its first draft of a set of rules to oversee the possession and use of legal marijuana when federal legislation comes into place next year.
Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley says that the Alberta Cannabis Framework was built from various engagements with the public over the summer, including an online survey that over 45,000 Albertans responded to.
“With your input, we’ve drafted a proposed framework to manage legalized cannabis in our province. We look forward to receiving additional feedback from Albertans on this framework.”
Ganley also added that the present document is a draft and they are continuing to work on refining their approach in the days leading up to when pot is legalized in Canada.
Under the framework, sales and consumption of cannabis will be restricted to Albertans aged 18 and older, which is the same provincial restriction for tobacco and alcohol.
Ganley said that while there are health concerns for young people using cannabis, those between 18 and 25 years old are the largest users of marijuana in the province.
By setting a legal age of purchase and possession, Ganley says that it helps to ensure that people are getting a safe product, but the government doesn’t want people to get the wrong idea about pot.
"We are not encouraging use at 18 but that is generally the age where we allow people to make adult decisions. We will target public education to promote responsible use of cannabis and ensure that young people are aware of its risks.”
Ganley says the limit on public possession of marijuana will be 30 grams, the same as the federal recommendation, but the province will be prohibiting those under 18 from possessing any cannabis.
“While anyone under 18 possessing less than five grams would not face criminal charges, they would subject to sanctions such as fines similar to those of underage alcohol and tobacco. Those under 18 found in possession would face criminal charges as set out in federal regulations.”
In terms of where pot can be consumed, Ganley says the province will allow it to be used in homes and in some public spaces.
“Smoking and vaping would be banned in vehicles, at schools and hospitals, and in spaces frequented by children, like within five metres of playgrounds, spray parks and zoos.”
Sales of cannabis would see a supply coming into the province through a federally regulated distribution model administered by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission, Ganley said.
“Under this model, government would have control over the products coming into Alberta. This would help to ensure that only legally produced products are sold here.”
Cannabis would then be sold at licenced retailers. It cannot be sold alongside tobacco, alcohol or pharmaceuticals.
Online sales won’t be allowed initially, Ganley said, because there would be no way to ensure who would be buying the product and who it would be delivered to.
Albertans that want to grow their own plants will be limited to four, no taller than one metre high. However, the plants must be grown indoors to make sure children won’t come in contact with them.
Discussions over the taxation of marijuana sales are still ongoing, Ganley said.
“It’s my understanding that it’s been a subject of conversation at the first minister's meeting as well. Alberta’s position is that we’re going to be bearing most of the upfront costs of this and we’re bearing those costs at a decision taken by the federal government. We think that, initially, given that we are not certain that there will be sufficient revenue to cover the costs, that our costs should take primacy and that they should get covered first.”
A number of the safety issues, including impairment, are also being worked out ahead of the July 2018 legalization date.
In regards to cannabis impaired driving, Ganley said Alberta will be making moves to match the federal Criminal Code that pertains to impaired driving.
“The specifics on how to handle impairment will be in the hands of the federal government,” Ganley said. “We know they are developing and testing new screening devices and we’re eager to hear more from them on that front.”
She says the federal government has also committed funding to improving the training of police drug recognition experts.
The government will be moving ahead with a second phase of consultations that includes an online survey that Albertans can take part in until October 27. A final draft of the legislation is expected to be published in the winter.
The city says it is reviewing the plan to get a better sense of how it will impact citizens.
“In anticipation of the provincial framework, 15 City business areas have been working for several months doing important groundwork to ensure Calgary is prepared for legalization in 2018,” said Matt Zabloski, project lead. “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.”
The city says it will launch an online survey later this fall to gather feedback from Calgarians.
The provincial government says it intends to bring in the legislation ahead of the federal deadline in July.