Prov­ince read­ies re­tail pot plan

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - JAMES WOOD jwood@post­media.com

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.

DARRYL DYCK/ THE CANADIAN PRESS

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.”

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