Pubdate: Thu, 05 Oct 2017
Source: Calgary Sun, The (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 The Calgary Sun
Author: James Wood
Page: 3


Public asked to pipe up on marijuana rules

The NDP government is weighing whether to set up government-run stores
to sell marijuana in Alberta or leave the market to private retailers
once recreational cannabis is legalized next year.

Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley unveiled the government's proposed
framework for legal weed Wednesday, with the province setting 18 as
the legal age for consumption - matching the age for alcohol and
tobacco use in Alberta.

The province will also mandate that legal weed be sold only in
standalone stores, with no sales of alcohol, tobacco or
pharmaceuticals in the same facility.

But the government says it's seeking further input on whether to set
up government-owned and operated stores to sell legal marijuana, as is
being planned in Ontario, or license and regulate private retailers.

"It's a decision all Albertans need to engage in," said Ganley in a
news conference at Calgary's McDougall Centre, the government's
southern Alberta headquarters.

Consultations will be open until Oct. 27, with the government planning
to make a decision before introducing legislation in the fall sitting
of the legislative assembly, which runs from the end of October to
early December.

Ganley said a public system could provide greater oversight and
control over legal marijuana sales. While the upfront costs would be
significant - and may not be recouped - a government-owned retail
system could bring more revenue to the province in the long run.

A private retail system would be more flexible in meeting consumer
demand and would provide more economic opportunities for small
business, she said.

However, the province provided no estimates for either costs or
revenue under each model. Ganley said the government did not expect to
generate enough revenue initially to counteract the costs of

Under the government's plan the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission
will serve as a central wholesaler for cannabis as it does for
alcohol, ensuring uniform distribution costs and that only legally
produced and federally regulated cannabis products are sold in the

Angela Pitt, justice critic with the United Conservative Party, said
that's a proper role for the AGLC but she questioned why the NDP would
consider creating government-owned stores.

"Why do we have to have our fingers in everything?" she said in an

"The liquor store model runs very successfully in this province and
everybody makes a lot of money doing it. … I think there's a lot of
people who are prepared to make a go of this."

The Alberta Party and Liberals are also opposed to government-owned
cannabis stores, though all three opposition parties are prepared to
accept 18 as the legal age for consumption.

The federal Liberal government has set July 1, 2018, as the date for
legalization of legal marijuana but has left many of the details to
the provinces.

Alberta will not change the federal government's public possession
limit of 30 grams - the equivalent of about 40 joints - for adults. It
will also maintain the federal limit of four plants per household.

The province will have a zero-tolerance policy for youth possession,
with tickets for those under 18 in possession of under five grams of
cannabis and potential criminal charges for possession over that amount.
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