Pubdate: Thu, 05 Oct 2017
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Kelly Cryderman
Page: A8


Blueprint for recreational marijuana sales shares key similarities
with proposals in Ontario and New Brunswick, but also shows how varied
the provincial approaches will be upon legalization, Kelly Cryderman
reports from Calgary

Alberta has joined in the rush by provinces to adapt to Canada's
rapidly approaching marijuana legalization, with a draft plan that
sets the minimum age at 18 and allows for public consumption in some
areas. But the province is undecided on whether storefront sales will
be managed by government monopoly or private interests.

The blueprint released Wednesday makes Alberta the third province,
after Ontario and New Brunswick last month, to lay out some details of
how cannabis will be sold and consumed as the federal government moves
toward legalization by July, 2018.

In keeping with the messaging from Ottawa and other provinces, the NDP
government says it will work to prevent minors from getting their
hands on marijuana, promote public health, keep drug-impaired drivers
and workers off roads and job sites, and curb the illegal market.

However, the western province's plan is a clear demonstration of how
different the rules between provinces will look.

Alberta's detailed draft framework stands apart from what has been
seen in New Brunswick, which announced that a Crown corporation will
oversee the sale of non-medicinal cannabis with few other firm
details. And Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley made a point
Wednesday of mentioning that her province's plan differs from
Ontario's in terms of where the drug can be consumed: Ontario proposes
that recreational cannabis use be limited to private homes.

Alberta, in contrast, is suggesting that people be able to use
recreational marijuana both at home or in public areas where smoking
is already allowed. The province still plans to ban consumption at
schools or hospitals, in vehicles, or in areas frequented by children.
Cannabis use won't be allowed within five metres of playgrounds, spray
parks and sports fields, for instance.

"We won't have specialized cannabis cafes and lounges right away. It's
something we will revisit in the future, once the rules by the federal
government for edible cannabis products are established," Ms. Ganley

Retail sales will be another point of difference among the provinces.
Alberta has opened the door to the possibility of dozens of private
stores stretching out across the province in the years ahead. But
unlike Ontario and British Columbia, Alberta does not currently have a
trove of private, technically illegal marijuana dispensaries.

Ontario says it will launch a monopoly of cannabis stores as a
subsidiary of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, a move that would
put an end to private dispensaries. But in B.C., Premier John Horgan
said this week that his province's numerous illegal dispensaries means
it is already well-positioned to begin retail sales, and suggested a
mixture of public and private sales is the likely outcome of a
continuing consultation process.

In Alberta, Ms. Ganley insisted her government doesn't favour either
the private model or a government model, and is waiting for public
feedback. But she noted that a private model is the one Albertans are
most familiar with, since the province closed its last Alberta Liquor
Control Board store 23 years ago.

No matter which model it lands on, Alberta says only specialized
cannabis stores will be allowed to sell products - with no association
with alcohol, tobacco or pharmaceuticals permitted. Unlike Ontario's
plans, online sales are not a part of Alberta's initial plans.

In terms of the legal age for consumption, the provinces stand apart
only because they already have different legal drinking ages. Like
Ontario, Alberta is linking the minimum age for marijuana use to its
drinking age.

"We are not encouraging use at 18, but that is generally the age at
which we allow people to make adult decisions," Ms. Ganley said.

Some pieces of legislation to back up the policies could come as early
as this fall. The province is asking for public feedback on the
proposals by Oct. 27.

Other policies rolled out by Alberta on Wednesday include setting the
public possession limit at 30 grams - the equivalent of about 40
marijuana cigarettes - with a "zero-tolerance" policy for youth
possession. The government is also suggesting that residents only be
allowed to grow marijuana plants indoors.

Kirk Tousaw, a Vancouver lawyer and cannabis advocate, praised Alberta
for raising the possibility of private retailers participating in the
recreational cannabis market - a development he says is better for
entrepreneurs, the economy and consumers.

"At least Alberta has provided an example of some flexibility and
rationality in the way we approach these issues," Mr. Tousaw said.

"And it's also the first province that said explicitly, 'Look, people
are going to need some place to consume this product - so we're not
going to engage in this idea of banning consumption in all public 
spaces.' "
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MAP posted-by: Matt