Pubdate: Thu, 05 Oct 2017
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 The Edmonton Journal
Author: James Wood
Page: A8


Minister announces policy framework, says legal age to consume will be

CALGARY - 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
stand-alone 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.

"At the moment, we're open to all options," Ganley told a news
conference at McDougall Centre.

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.

Government briefing materials say a public system could provide
greater oversight 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

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

However, the province provided no estimates for either costs or
revenue under each model.

Ganley said the government did not expect to generate revenue that
will counteract the costs of legalization, at least initially.

Unlike Ontario, Alberta has had no system of government-owned liquor
stores since privatization in the 1990s.

However, 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
province. 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

The smoking and vaping of marijuana in public will face the same
restrictions as tobacco, with additional bans on use on hospital
grounds, school properties and areas frequented by children.

Those include playgrounds, child care facilities, sports fields,
skateboard parks, pools, splash parks and public washrooms.

The Alberta government had faced calls from groups such as the Alberta
Medical Association to set the legal age for cannabis consumption at
21 out of concerns about marijuana's impact on young adults' brain

Ganley said while there are health concerns, people aged between 18
and 25 are the largest users of marijuana in Alberta. Setting the age
higher than 18 would simply enable the black market that legalization
is supposed to eliminate, she said. Cannabis lounges will not be
allowed immediately, pending a decision by Ottawa on edible products,
but could be given the go-ahead in the future. Online sales may or may
not be allowed initially, pending further review.

The NDP wants more discussions with the federal government on

At Tuesday's meeting of first ministers, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
suggested a 10 per cent excise tax with revenue to be split between
Ottawa and the provinces.
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