Al­berta re­leases pro­posed le­gal­ized cannabis rules, sets 18 as min­i­mum age

Fort McMurray Today - - ALBERTA NEWS - DEAN BEN­NETT

Al­berta is propos­ing to make 18 the min­i­mum age to use cannabis when new laws lib­er­al­iz­ing mar­i­juana kick in next sum­mer.

The prov­ince hasn’t de­cided yet on whether to sell cannabis through gov­ern­ment-run stores or through pri­vate op­er­a­tors.

Jus­tice Min­is­ter Kath­leen Gan­ley says Al­berta res­i­dents will have just over three weeks to give feed­back on the pro­posal and leg­is­la­tion will be in­tro­duced in the months ahead.

She says a min­i­mum age of 18 lines up with the age re­stric­tion on al­co­hol use and to­bacco pur­chases.

“We rec­og­nize there are health con­cerns around young peo­ple us­ing cannabis,” Gan­ley said Wed­nes­day. “But we also know that young peo­ple, those be­tween the ages of 18 and 25, are the largest age cat­e­gory of users in Al­berta.

“Set­ting the min­i­mum age at 18 will en­cour­age younger peo­ple to ac­cess cannabis legally in­stead of get­ting it through a drug dealer.”

The gov­ern­ment would di­rectly man­age the whole­sale dis­tri­bu­tion of cannabis through the Al­berta Gam­ing and Liquor Com­mis­sion. Cannabis wouldn’t be sold in any store that han­dles liquor, to­bacco or phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal drugs.

Gan­ley said there are pros and cons to both gov­ern­ment and pri­vate re­tail mod­els.

She said gov­ern­ment-run stores would give the prov­inces more con­trol, but with po­ten­tially pro­hib­i­tive start-up and ad­min­is­tra­tion costs. A pri­vate model would save money and en­cour­age en­trepreneurs, but could cost the gov­ern­ment crit­i­cal tax rev­enue down the road.

The bot­tom line, she said, is that cannabis can­not be a net drain on the prov­ince.

“At this point we’re not ex­pect­ing rev­enue gen­er­a­tion ini­tially,” she said. “Our in­ter­est is in en­sur­ing that our costs are cov­ered ... and those costs will be fairly sig­nif­i­cant in the first cou­ple of years.”

The prov­ince said it will not al­low on­line sales un­til it learns more about how to keep youth from get­ting cannabis through the in­ter­net.

The pro­posal does not sug­gest a tax rate. Al­berta plans to con­tinue to work with Ottawa to set a levy that is fair and will avoid push­ing cus­tomers to­ward a black mar­ket.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau has pro­posed a fed­eral ex­cise tax on cannabis, with the prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries re­ceiv­ing half the rev­enue.

The pro­posal would see each gram of pot sub­ject to an ex­cise tax of $1 on sales up to $10, and a 10 per cent tax on sales of more than $10.

Pre­miers have said that if the prov­inces are on the hook for the lion’s share of the cost of reg­u­la­tion and en­force­ment, they should get the bulk of the tax rev­enue.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment tabled leg­is­la­tion in the spring to le­gal­ize recre­ational use of mar­i­juana by July 1 and prov­inces have been con­sult­ing on or rolling out de­tails on their cannabis plan.

Ottawa has re­mained firm on the start date, de­spite push­back from prov­inces, ter­ri­to­ries and po­lice or­ga­ni­za­tions that it might be too am­bi­tious given the com­plex­ity of reg­u­la­tions in­volved.

Al­berta pro­poses keep­ing the limit for pos­ses­sion at 30 grams for an adult — about 40 joints — as sug­gested by Ottawa.

There would be zero tol­er­ance for youth pos­ses­sion. Young peo­ple caught with five grams or less would get a ticket and their par­ents would be told. Those who had more than five grams would be sub­ject to Crim­i­nal Code penal­ties.

Al­ber­tans would be al­lowed to grow four plants in­side their homes —but not in their yards — for per­sonal use.

The Op­po­si­tion United Con­ser­va­tive Party said Al­berta res­i­dents need to know how the gov­ern­ment will keep cannabis out of the hands of young peo­ple.

“Many ques­tions re­main about pub­lic aware­ness, and work­place safety con­cerns,” said jus­tice critic An­gela Pitt.

“We need to be work­ing col­lab­o­ra­tively with those who will be di­rectly im­pacted by these changes to en­sure that we can keep our com­mu­ni­ties safe and healthy.”

LARRY WONG/POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

Hun­dreds of peo­ple at­tended the Ed­mon­ton 420 mar­i­juana rally held at the Al­berta Leg­is­la­ture grounds in Ed­mon­ton on Thurs­day April 20, 2017.

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