Pubdate: Sat, 07 Oct 2017
Source: Medicine Hat News (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Alberta Newspaper Group, Inc.
Author: Jeremy Appel
Page: B9


Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley has announced the first
details of Alberta's plans for selling marijuana once the product is
legalized across the nation in July.

This makes Alberta the third province, after Ontario and New
Brunswick, to show its hand.

Ganley announced enough details to satisfy those who want to know
Alberta's broader approach to legalization, while keeping more
contentious details, like who gets to sell it, for a later date.

Although Alberta Health Services recommended making the legal age 21
for pot consumption and raising the alcohol and tobacco ages from 18
to match it, Alberta's government is sensibly and simply making 18 the
legal age for weed.

Since the stated goal of legalization is to keep kids away from the
black market, it wouldn't make sense to force people between the ages
of 18 and 21 to purchase weed illegally.

If you're an 18-year-old who wants to toke up, you're not going to be
deterred from doing so if it will be legal in three years. Of course,
Canadian teenagers have never been deterred from smoking pot, which is
one of the reasons why it's becoming legal in the first place.

This fixation on preventing black market sales doesn't make much
sense. Has anyone ever been murdered over a pot deal gone awry? This
stands in contrast to other substances where violent behaviour and
gangsterism are intimately connected with their sale.

It would appear that decriminalization, rather than full legalization,
would be the more rational course of action for a relatively harmless
substance like marijuana.

But the prime minister made a vow to legalize and regulate marijuana
sales, and to his credit he's keeping that promise, unlike electoral
reform and First Nations reconciliation.

In the meantime, it would be helpful if marijuana possession were
decriminalized, considering it won't be a crime come July, but this is
outside of the province's purview.

Alberta has yet to decide whether it will opt for Ontario's
much-maligned approach of establishing government-run stores for
marijuana or New Brunswick's arms-length Crown corporation.

The government is wisely waiting for further consultations from
residents before making a decision that will largely determine how
much revenue it will generate and how accessible the product will be.

Even moreso than Ontario with its already-established Liquor Control
Board, it would be quite wasteful for Alberta to set up government-run
pot vendors because it would have to create the infrastructure from

Ganley said the government's immediate goal is to break even, not turn
a profit, from weed sales.

But making money from the legalization of marijuana would be to the
NDP's benefit.

It could be used to reduce the province's growing debt while
maintaining current levels of public services.

This would eliminate a major conservative talking point that the
current government is fiscally irresponsible, saddling future
generations with unsustainable debt.

Colorado, in many ways a pioneer of marijuana legalization, nets about
$200 million a year in marijuana sales, according to a recent article
in Macleans.

Sure, that's not a massive sum considering the state earns $24 billion
in total revenues, but it's a little something to go towards state

When you have crediting agencies and opposition parties breathing down
your neck about deficits, as Alberta does, any bit of profit helps.
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MAP posted-by: Matt