Pubdate: Tue, 20 Feb 2018
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2018 Postmedia Network
Author: Rob Breakenridge
Page: A11


For all the hand-wringing that we were rushing into cannabis
legalization, and that there wasn't enough time to get it right, it
turns out that it wasn't that hard to figure out, after all.

Proponents of legalization have long argued that it makes far more
sense to regulate cannabis similar to how we regulate alcohol. All
along, then, the model for cannabis retail was staring us right in the
face, and the Alberta government deserves credit for not missing the
glaringly obvious.

When tasked with figuring out how to design a system for the
distribution and retail of a legal recreational drug, the response
very quickly could have and should have been, "Oh, you mean like the
system we have for the distribution and retail of that other legal
recreational drug?"

We took the scenic route, I suppose, but at least we got to the right

The Alberta government announced on Friday the ground rules for how
legalized cannabis will be sold.

The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission will take the lead on
co-ordinating distribution of the product and approving business

Initially, 250 retail licences will be issued, and no single
individual or company will be allowed to own more than 15 per cent of
those permits. The latter point is probably a logical step to take at
the outset, so as to allow more entrants into the market and more
competition to flourish.

The number of retail outlets will likely rise, too. When you consider
that Calgary alone has well over 250 liquor stores, the total number
for Alberta seems relatively small. It's also far fewer than the
number of licences that have been issued in Oregon, which has a
comparable population to Alberta.

However, when you look at the fact that Ontario will start with only
40 (government-owned and run) cannabis retail outlets - rising to just
150 by 2020 - Alberta looks far more sensible by comparison.
Hopefully, we'll allow demand to guide future growth in the

By and large, though, this looks a lot like how liquor retail is
regulated. Store hours? From 10 a.m. until 2 a.m. at the most, just
like liquor stores. Buffer zone around schools and healthcare
facilities? Yes indeed, just like with liquor stores.

Again, it's such an obvious parallel that it makes you wonder why so
much time was spent studying this. It also makes you wonder what
municipalities are so worried about.

The City of Calgary, for example, has expressed much concern about the
pace and uncertainty of legalization and the potential costs of
implementing new policies. But again, given the hundreds of liquor
stores that do business in Calgary - and pay property taxes in Calgary
- - it's hard to understand what all the fuss is about.

If we figured out how to regulate hundreds of liquor stores in
Calgary, why the panic over a few dozen cannabis stores? Perhaps now
that the Alberta government has clarified the extent to which this
will mirror the liquor regulatory regime, city officials can relax.
We've been there, done that.

One could make the case that liberalization should go even further.
Why not allow liquor stores to sell cannabis or vice versa? Why not
let grocery stores or other retail outlets sell liquor or cannabis, or
both? And we probably could do all of those things without the sky

On the whole, however, Alberta's system of privatized liquor retail
has worked quite well - probably better than any other province.
There's every reason to believe that it will be a good fit for the
burgeoning cannabis industry.

It's a win-win, too: convenience and choice for consumers, and
economic opportunities for Alberta entrepreneurs and job seekers. The
NDP might not have a reputation for being champions of such things,
but that even they are capable of recognizing the proper course of
action only serves to underscore how obvious it was all along.
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MAP posted-by: Matt