Pubdate: Mon, 26 Jun 2017
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network
Author: James Wood
Page: A1


Alberta's conservative opposition parties are concerned about the
tight time frame for cannabis legalization.

NDP Finance Minister Joe Ceci said last week that despite major
decisions needing to be made, Alberta will be ready with a regulatory
regime and won't ask Ottawa for an extension to its planned July 1,
2018, date for legal cannabis to be implemented.

However, Wildrose justice critic Angela Pitt said in a recent
interview that Alberta should contemplate joining Manitoba in formally
asking for the legalization date to be pushed back.

"It wouldn't be a bad idea for Alberta to also ask for an extension on
the deadline so we can get it right. This is a huge thing that is
about to happen to our province, and the more time the better," said

Ottawa has rejected the notion of extending the timeline for what was
a Liberal campaign promise.

Alberta's NDP government has launched consultations on legal cannabis,
looking at issues such as the legal age for consumption and where the
product should be sold. The province must also create some sort of
taxation regime for marijuana.

Opposition parties are themselves grappling with legal

The Progressive Conservative caucus says it is still developing its
position on what it called an "intricate topic."

But at a recent local party fundraising event, PC Leader Jason Kenney
warned that the provincial government must be "very deliberate and
careful about the regulatory regime it adopts."

He told reporters he would favour decriminalization rather than
legalization of cannabis, but recognizes that legal marijuana is coming.

"I just think we need to ensure a strong provincial regulatory
framework that ensures we don't end up increasing the availability of
marijuana to minors. I think you can have very negative health effects
on adolescents and other public health implications," he said.

Pitt said she believes the NDP is properly consulting on the issue,
but Wildrose is doing its own consultations around marijuana as it
prepares its policy response.

The party hasn't settled on the suitable age for legal cannabis
consumption, with Pitt acknowledging there is significant debate
around the issue. One position the party has determined, however, is
that marijuana sales should be left to the private sector.

"We want to see it heavily regulated but we want to see the system
similar to how our liquor stores are run," said Pitt, referring to
standardized training and centralized distribution centres.

The Airdrie MLA said, however, that liquor stores themselves should
not sell recreational marijuana, with the party instead leaning toward
stand-alone dispensaries for the product.

Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark said he also favours retail operations
dedicated solely to cannabis, rather than having it sold by either
government stores or liquor stores.

Clark also believes the legal age for consumption should be

"Keeping it out of the hands of older teenagers is wise," he

Liberal Leader David Khan, however, said the minimum age for
recreational cannabis use should be 18, matching Alberta's legal
drinking age.

"If it's set higher, it will simply feed the black market," Khan said.
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