The Alberta government has released another instalment of cannabis rules, this time outlining who can own and operate pot shops.
In a press conference on Friday morning, Alberta’s Minister of Justice Kathleen Ganley announced that anyone wanting to open a cannabis dispensary will need to pass a background check and undergo training.
Ganley said that the primary focus of the government while crafting this legislation will be to keep the public safe.
“These regulations will help support four policy priorities – keeping cannabis out of the hands of children, protecting public health, promoting safety on roads, in workplaces and in public spaces, and limiting the illegal market,” Ganley said.
St. Albert city manager Kevin Scoble said that the city welcomes the provincial government’s announcement and they will be going over the new regulations in the coming weeks.
“This legislation is vital for us to have a clear understanding of our responsibilities as a municipality. We have done our best to begin preparations but we have been waiting for the provincial regulations so we can move forward in earnest with our own planning,” Scoble said in an emailed statement.
The provincial government will screen for anyone who has links to organized crime and other major Criminal Code charges. Ganley said that the aim of the government is to keep the illegal drug market from seeping into the new legalized market. Along with a background check Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) will also look into the financial background of the potential retailer to ensure there are no links to money laundering, organized crime or fraud.
“A conviction such as trafficking or producing illegal drugs, or associations to organized crime or violence will make someone ineligible for a retail licence,” Ganley said.
Cannabis retailers will be able to apply for a licence to open retail shops starting March 6. Minor drug possession charges would not automatically disqualify someone from opening up a cannabis shop.
Along with owners being screened, employees will be evaluated by the AGLC before they can work at a cannabis shop. They will need to take an online course, similar to the ProServe program that members of the restaurant and liquor industry take to sell liquor. Employees will also have to undergo a background check, similar to AGLC’s current screening process for gaming employees.
Alberta expects to issue 250 licences in the first year of operation and one single owner will not be able to hold more than 15 per cent of the licences, which be approximately 37 in the first year of operation. The businesses will need to renew their licences every three years.
Ganley said the government is setting the limit at 15 per cent is to prevent one single company from gaining a monopoly in the budding market.
Pot shops will be able to operate between 10 a.m. and 2 a.m., which are the same hours set up for liquor stores in the province. Ganley said that this move helps make the enforcement of these shops easy for RCMP and police officers.
The provincial government also outlined buffer zones for cannabis retailers. Retail spaces will not be able to set up within 100 meters of schools or provincial health-care facilities.
Municipalities will have the power to alter those buffer zones as they see fit.
Stores that set up will be required to have a high level of security on the premises which includes installing alarms and video surveillance. All of the product sold in the shops will be have to kept in locked cases and loose product may not be sold in stores. Cannabis product will be transported to the shops in sealed packaging, which the government likened to sealed packages of tea.
No minors will be allowed inside of the shops and the marijuana stores will not be able to advertise their products anywhere that minors are allowed.
The government is still not sure what the marijuana price point will look like, but Ganley said that the AGLC will have the power to introduce a price floor on the product in the future.
The original date for legalization was anticipated to be July 1, 2018, but the bill that would legalize the drug is currently tied up in the Senate. It is now anticipated that the drug will not be sold in the country until August 2018.