Province readies retail pot plan
Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley says she’s not expecting “complete consensus” as Alberta prepares to release its plan for legal cannabis in a matter of weeks.
As the federal Liberal government prepares to legalize the recreational use of marijuana on July 1, 2018, it falls to the provinces to deal with issues such as the minimum age for consumption and how pot will be distributed and sold.
In written submissions to its cannabis secretariat, Alberta’s NDP government has heard wideranging options for how retail sales of marijuana should be handled, including allowing new standalone specialized stores, utilizing existing private liquor stores or government-controlled sales.
At a meeting of Canada’s justice and public safety ministers Friday in Vancouver, Ganley avoided a question on whether the province was considering the creation of a Crown corporation or government-run stores to be responsible for cannabis sales.
With the initial phase of gov- ernment consultations over, the province will soon release its plan for review and feedback from the public, she said.
“This is not an area in which you can reach complete consensus. There’s always going to be divergent views ... but we should have in the next couple of weeks a framework coming out for Albertans to comment on,” said Ganley, who co-chairs the provincial working group on legal pot.
Ontario recently announced legal cannabis would be sold in that province through a network of new stores operated by the government’s Liquor Control Board of Ontario. New Brunswick announced Friday that it would create a new Crown corporation to oversee sales of recreational marijuana but has not finalized its retail model.
In its written submission to the province, Alberta Health Services said the best model for legal marijuana would be “a government controlled system of distribution and retail.” AHS has refused to clarify, however, whether it is calling for government-owned and operated stores. The Alberta government has not owned liquor stores since Klein-era privatization in the 1990s.
The provincial health authority also suggested Alberta consider setting 21 as the minimum legal age for marijuana consumption and potentially raise the current legal age for drinking alcohol and smoking — 18 — to match.
Ottawa has set 18 as the legal minimum age for marijuana na- tionally, but provinces can set their own upwards age limits, with Ontario announcing 19 as its cut-off.
The clock is ticking on Alberta to unveil its marijuana regime as the Trudeau government is determined to keep to its planned timeline for legalization.
Police chiefs were the latest group to call for the legalization date to be pushed back, telling MPs this week that they won’t be ready for legal marijuana next year.
But Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Friday in Vancouver that an enormous amount of work has already been done on the issue over the last two years and the pieces are ready to fall into place as provinces release their own plans.
“The momentum is building. The work is going forward. The objective of implementation for summer of next year appears to be a reasonable one,” he told reporters.
Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley said on Friday that she expects the Alberta government to have a “framework” on legal cannabis in the “next couple of weeks.”