Province presents preliminary pot plan

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The financial burden on municipalities associated with the legalization of marijuana is one of the local concerns.

The Alberta government announced the legal age for marijuana use will be 18 when it announced the first draft of its plans for cannabis legalization released Wednesday.

The proposal aligned with the federal government’s suggestion that adults would be able to legally carry 30 grams of marijuana on them. Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley said that the age of 18 was chosen to match the legal age of drinking and smoking.

“We are not encouraging use at 18 but that is generally the age where we allow people to make adult decisions. We will target public education to promote responsible use of cannabis and ensure that young people are aware of its risks,” Ganley said.

St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse said he is pleased with the framework put forward but is still concerned with the financial burden that municipalities will face.

Many issues, such as zoning and enforcement, will have to be handled by municipalities.

United Conservative Party MLA Glenn van Dijken said that he is hearing a lot of concern from municipalities in his riding who said that they will not be prepared to tackle the drug legalization on a short timeline, which the federal government said will come into effect on July 1, 2018.

“It does concern me because the closer you get to the front lines the less they have to say about it and the more they are going to be having to deal with it,” van Dijken said.

St. Albert City Manger Kevin Scoble said that the city has put together a “cross functional team” made up of members of many departments within the city to start to tackle some of the tasks on a municipal level. He said the city has been preparing for the drug legalization for months.

Scoble said that the new council will be briefed on the issue and he said that preparing for the legalization of marijuana will be administration’s highest priority over the next year.

The government has kept in line with the federal government’s proposal of limiting homegrown plants to four per household. The provincial government also stipulated that the plants may not be grown outside but must be grown inside the home and can be no bigger than one-metre high.

Legal weed can be consumed in private homes along with some public places. Pot consumption will be prohibited in locations that are frequented by children, such as near schools, in zoos and in parks.

The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission would distribute the product but Ganley said that the province hasn’t decided whether the government will sell weed or if private businesses will.

Van Dijken said that he would prefer the government allow private businesses to sell the drug.

“It’s still going to be a regulated product but what we find when we have distribution through one government source is that it limits the ability of the industry to evolve into an industry that is reactive to consumer’s needs,” van Dijken said.

The product cannot be sold with alcohol, pharmaceuticals or tobacco.

For now the government has prohibited online sales and cannabis cafés and lounges but will revisit those issues at a later date. Ganley said they want to insure that online deliveries are being made to people over the age of 18. The minister said that cafés could be legislated once the federal government legalizes edibles.

The minister said that the proposal is based off of feedback the government collected in the summer, which includes an online survey that had 45,000 respondents.

The government plans to introduce legislation in the winter. The drug will be legal by July 2018.

Albertans will be able to give feedback to the proposal at the Alberta.ca website until Oct. 27.

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Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2016. She writes about municipal, provincial and federal politics; court and crime; general news and features.