Today, Alberta announced its proposed framework for legalized recreational cannabis (the “Framework”).
Prior to drafting its Framework, like many other Provinces, Alberta released an online survey asking residents for ideas and suggestions on how to implement a legalized recreational cannabis regime in the province. In addition to the survey, which ran from June 2 to July 31, 2017 the provincial government did in-person surveys, held extensive public and stakeholders meetings and read written submissions submitted by such stakeholders.
The Framework has the stated objectives of:
- Keeping cannabis out of the hands of children;
- Protecting public health;
- Promoting safety on roads, in workplaces and in public spaces; and
- Limiting the illegal market for cannabis.
Distribution and Sales
Although Alberta is considering government-run stores as an option, the Framework cites potentially prohibitive start-up and administration costs. The government appears to be leaning towards a private model, which is something many Canadians have been holding out hope for. In the proposed private retail model, licensed producers will distribute product to a government-regulated body which will directly manage distribution within the province. All of the cannabis that will be available for sale by private retailers will come from the government distributor.
Private retailers will be specialized and the province will set strict regulations for hours of operation, location and guidelines for hiring and training staff. There will be no co-location of alcohol, tobacco or pharmaceuticals and will have to adhere to strict zoning requirements (expect locations to be far away from schools, places of worship and other community or public areas).
Online sales and licensed establishments like cannabis cafes and lounges are “not part of the system on day one, but will be considered as part of next steps.”
Advertising and packaging will be governed by the federal legislation, but the Alberta government has stated its intention to address any gaps in policies that may arise.
With respect to grow-your-own, Alberta will allow adult residents to grow up to 4 plants per household, but plants must be located inside of the home away from where children could potentially gain access.
Minimum Age, Consumption and Possession
The minimum age for purchase and consumption in Alberta will be set at 18. This is consistent with Alberta’s legal age for alcohol and tobacco and will be coupled with “a strong focus on public education to encourage responsible use and create awareness of cannabis’ impact on health”. Young people under the age of 18 who purchase or possess more than five grams of cannabis will be met with a zero tolerance approach and may face criminal charges as a result.
Once the legal recreational market comes into effect, adult Albertans will be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of legally produced cannabis in public. Consumption in public will be allowed in some locations but will be strictly prohibited in areas frequented by children and in other public spaces where smoking is prohibited. Consumption will be strictly banned in cars, both for drivers and passengers alike.
Alberta plans to implement several safeguards in its approach and focused its Framework on impaired driving and impairment in the workplace. The government’s goal is to address safety concerns and in order to do so will implement measures such as requiring that cannabis is secured away from drivers and passengers while on the road. Strong penalties for driving under the influence plus the introduction of new tools for police officers to use to monitor are in the works in the province.
The government is asking Albertans to provide feedback on the Framework by completing a new online survey accessible here. Alternatively, residents may email a written response to the Cannabis Secretariat at firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline to submit written responses and to complete the survey is Friday, October 27 at midnight (MT).
Feature Image: Alberta Government, 2017