Alberta releases proposed legalized cannabis rules, sets 18 as minimum age
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.”
Hundreds of people attended the Edmonton 420 marijuana rally held at the Alberta Legislature grounds in Edmonton on Thursday April 20, 2017.