A panel of three cannabis experts spoke on legalization of the drug on April 11 at the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce.
Business owners heard how the province is drafting regulations, how the municipality is preparing and what companies can do to keep their worksites safe.
The panellists were: Kim Capstick, executive director of engagement and outreach for the Alberta Cannabis Secretariat, Darija Slokar, lead of corporate business planning and special projects with the City of St. Albert and Alison McMahon, founder and CEO of Cannabis At Work.
Cannabis in the province
Capstick said the provincial government has been working closely with the federal government in drafting regulations that would work for municipalities.
She said part of the process included public consultation.
In a survey completed by the Alberta government, 55 per cent of respondents said they had tried cannabis in their lifetime. 60,000 Albertans completed the survey.
“Keep in mind that’s 55 per cent who told the government that they had done something,” she said. “We know that this number is probably not exactly correct.”
The NDP government recently added a few changes to the provincial regulations. Added in the document was how recreational cannabis should be packaged.
With the changes, no recreational cannabis store can market its product as therapeutic or medicinal.
Capstick said cannabis would be sold in packaging similar to tea containers.
She added that cannabis stores can only advertise where minors won’t be able to see it. Additionally, minors will not be allowed in cannabis stores even if accompanied by a parent.
Cannabis in St. Albert
While the province has set basic regulations around consumption and sales, one particular area of concern for business owners is where cannabis can be consumed.
Jillian Creech, general manager of the St. Albert Centre, wanted to know how the drug would be handled at festivals.
“How specific will bylaw changes be to cover off festivals?” she asked. “We have countless events that we hold outside throughout the city.”
The mall frequently has carnivals and other events right in its parking lot. Creech wanted to know if the bylaws would lump festivals in with events, or if they would be handled separately.
Slokar said how festivals and events would be defined is still to be determined under bylaw changes.
The city won’t be looking at bylaw changes until May, when the Land Use Bylaw will go through first reading. On June 25 the city has projected the bylaw to come forward for final readings.
In June council will also be looking at a smoking bylaw, business licensing and tobacco retail licensing bylaws.
Another aspect being considered is how far away cannabis stores have to be from schools, health centres and places where children frequent. The province has set a 100-metre minimum.
Slokar was asked what that meant for private consumption, and whether someone could consume cannabis in their backyard even if they were within 100 metres of a school boundary.
While she didn’t know the answer at the time, city manager Kevin Scoble later said in an email that private consumption in backyards, no matter the location, would be permissible.
Cannabis in the workplace
McMahon talked about how to handle medical and recreational cannabis in the workplace.
While recreational use should be treated like alcohol, she said medical cannabis should be treated as any other prescription drug.
Regardless of what someone is taking, McMahon stressed that under no circumstances should someone be under the influence while at work.
She added that there are current challenges being considered in legalization.
“The thing that’s really challenging in a lot of these discussions and with what’s impairment is we don’t have a tool today to determine if somebody is actively impaired by cannabis,” she said.
On April 26 McMahon will host a half-day workshop looking at cannabis in the workplace. She will be helping businesses with their drug policies and handling medical cannabis use at work.
The half-day workshop, being hosted by the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce, will take place at the St. Albert Inn and Suites. To register visit the chamber website at www.stalbertchamber.com.