Pubdate: Tue, 21 Nov 2017
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Andre Picard
Page: A11


Alberta and Quebec recently unveiled their strategies for the
commercialization of legal marijuana

The socialist NDP is embracing the free market, while the freemarket
Liberals seem to prefer the old-style state monopoly.

That is just one of the quirky realities as the provinces and
territories slowly and unsurely unveil their strategies for the
commercialization of legal marijuana.

Currently, only "medical" cannabis is legal. It must be prescribed and
purchased from one of 74 licensed producers. More than 200,000
Canadians have availed themselves of this privilege.

But changes to the federal Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and
Substances Act mean that, come July 1, 2018, any adult can possess
small amounts of marijuana.

While the Cannabis Act lays out the legal framework, the federal
government left it to the provinces to figure out how marijuana will
be sold.

In the past week, Quebec and Alberta both introduced legislation, and
they took sharply different approaches.

Ontario and New Brunswick are the only other provinces to have
introduced legislation to date.

Quebec's Bill 157, introduced by the pro-business Liberal government,
creates a new government agency, the Societe quebecoise du cannabis,
which will have a monopoly on the sale of recreational cannabis, both
in retail outlets and online. This is almost identical to neighbouring
Ontario's approach.

However, Quebec will have only 15 stores come July 1, and 150 within
two years. That seems shockingly inadequate given that there are 801
state-run Societe des alcools du Quebec outlets selling liquor in the
province, not to mention beer and wine in every corner store.

Quebec is also banning growyour-own pot, although federal law allows
up to four plants to be harvested for personal use.

Under the new law, marijuana can be smoked anywhere it is legal to
smoke cigarettes, with one exception - college and university
campuses. This seems like an odd rule; if anything, educational
institutions and their grounds should be smoke-free.

On the retail front, Alberta's New Democrats have taken a
diametrically opposed approach to Quebec. Under Bill 26, cannabis will
be sold in private retail outlets, with no limit on the number of stores.

The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission will license businesses and
handle distribution, just as it does with liquor stores. (In 1993,
Alberta shut down 200 state-run liquor stores; it now has more than
2,000 private liquor stores.)

However, Alberta will not allow cannabis to be sold where liquor,
cigarettes or pharmaceuticals are sold, which means stand-alone
dispensaries, which provinces such as Ontario are vowing to shut down.

Interestingly, Alberta has kept one element of cannabis sales out of
private hands: online sales.

In fact, only Manitoba has indicated that it will allow private
retailers to sell marijuana by mail - even though almost all medical
marijuana is currently purchased from licensed growers and distributed
via Canada Post.

Online sales, which have received little attention compared with
bricks-and-mortar sales outlets, could prove especially lucrative for
the provinces. But that depends on whether the online prices for
cannabis are the same as in-store prices.

To date, no province has issued any regulations about price, although
legal cannabis will likely sell from $7 to $10 a gram, plus taxes.

With close to $1-billion in taxes alone to be had in the first year of
the legal green rush, there is obviously much jockeying going on here.
Provinces want more than a 50-50 share of the proposed $1-a-gram
excise tax, and users of "medical" marijuana want a tax exemption.

In Alberta, pot can be smoked anywhere cigarettes are smoked, with one
exception - no toking in motor vehicles, even for passengers.

Alberta will allow adults to grow their own marijuana, to a maximum of
four plants, but they must be grown indoors. Ontario has also adopted
the no-outdoor-gardening rule.

To date, all provinces have limited sales to 30 grams at a time (about
a small baggie's worth) but with no limit on how much cannabis one can
keep for personal use in the home. Quebec, however, says a personal
stash must not exceed 150 grams.

Clearly, with the July 1 deadline approaching, all provinces need to
make their plans clear, and soon.

All eyes are now on British Columbia, the land of bud. Will the newly
elected NDP government legalize the province's extensive network of
dispensaries, take the state-run-store route or try some hybrid approach?
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt