Pubdate: Sat, 03 Jun 2017
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network
Author: Zane Schwartz
Page: A4


The Alberta government has launched an online survey to gauge public
opinion on key cannabis questions as it prepares for federal
legalization in 2018.

Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley rolled out the survey Friday as a
litmus test to see where Albertans stand on issues such as what the
legal age should be; whether marijuana should be permitted in public
places; and how police should handle motorists who drive under the

It's part of a consultation strategy that will include meetings with
groups directly affected by the impending legislation, such as police,
municipal and indigenous leaders, and addictions and mental-health
workers. The government will also be conducting surveys at festivals
and other public events.

"There will be many conversations about cannabis over the next year
and we hope that everyone will take the time to participate," said

In April, the federal government tabled legislation to make cannabis
legal across Canada by July 1, 2018. The proposed law would allow
Canadians over 18 to possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis and
introduces new penalties, including a 14-year maximum for those caught
selling to minors. However, the law provides provinces and territories
with broad leeway to implement the law as they decide is

One of the key questions Albertans are being consulted on is the
appropriate age for legal consumption of cannabis. The Canadian
Psychiatric Association recommends that Canadians should be 21 before
they're allowed to purchase marijuana for recreational use. The
Alberta government's survey, which will run until July 31, is open to
all Albertans 17 or older.

"Our government's focus throughout the process will remain on three
key aspects: keeping profits away from criminals, keeping cannabis out
of the hands of children, protecting our roads, workplaces and public
health," said Ganley.

The government also released a guide called Let's Talk About: Cannabis 
in Alberta that Ganley hopes will spark conversations among friends, 
family and neighbours. The guide includes statistics on cannabis use 
from the University of Calgary showing that Albertans use cannabis less 
than the average Canadian. While 10.5 per cent of Canadians used 
cannabis once in the past 12 months, only 8.9 per cent of Albertans did.

Both the online survey and the guide provide significant information
before asking for Albertans' opinions. For example, in the section
regarding legal age, a preamble states that research suggests cannabis
use among those under 25 results in higher risks of health problems
and dependency. It then goes on to say: "However, in Alberta, it is
young adults under 24 who are most likely to have used cannabis in the
last 12 months. If the age is set higher than 18, these young people
will likely still use, and will purchase from the illegal black market."

In addition to consulting Albertans, Ganley will also be looking at
best practices from other jurisdictions. One of the things she said
she's learned from Colorado, which legalized marijuana in January
2014, is the need to control the THC concentration, so that people
understand how much of the active ingredient they're taking.

It was not immediately clear what safeguards the government has in
place to ensure each person can only fill out the online survey once,
and that those who do fill out the online survey are Albertans. Ganley
said they're not limiting responses to one per IP address, but will be
monitoring for suspicious activity.
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MAP posted-by: Matt