Your Voice Matters: Take the Alberta Government Cannabis Survey!

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The Government of Alberta has outlined its draft framework for cannabis legalization in the province, and in order to garner feedback on this framework, Albertans are asked to complete a survey before October 27, 2017. To better help our clients and community better understand the questions and our stance on each, we have outlined each question of the survey and what our answer is for each.

The Government of Canada has introduced legislation that will make cannabis, or marijuana, legal in Canada by July 2018. The Government of Alberta has received valuable input from Albertans and experts to help inform what cannabis legalization will look like. More than 45,000 people took our first online survey, and about 100 organizations took part in roundtable meetings or provided written submissions. [Government of Alberta]

Who will be able to use non-medical cannabis in Alberta?
Once cannabis is legalized in July 2018, in Alberta:
  • Only those 18 years or older will be allowed to buy or use cannabis.
  • Cannabis retailers will be required to ID all customers and minors will not be allowed in cannabis stores.
  • For those under 18, the province will take a zero-tolerance approach for possession and use. Police will be able to seize small amounts of cannabis from minors, notify their parents or guardians, and issue tickets. Possession of more than 5 grams by minors will remain a criminal offence.
  • The government will deliver public education to encourage responsible use and make people aware of health risks.

OUR RESPONSE: 

STRONGLY SUPPORT: Alberta has set the age of 18 as the age in which Albertans are considered to be old enough to make their own choices concerning alcohol, gambling and tobacco. The 18 to 21 age group is in the highest range of recreational cannabis consumption, and to not allow them to purchase regulated, tested cannabis will force them to continue to support the black market.

Where will Albertans be able to buy non-medical cannabis?
Once cannabis is legalized in July 2018, in Alberta:
  • Adults will only be able to buy cannabis products (dried cannabis, plants, oils) and accessories from specialized cannabis stores.
  • There will be strict government oversight and controls on how cannabis gets from licenced growers to stores.
  • The government has not yet determined whether cannabis stores will be private or government owned.

OUR RESPONSE:

STRONGLY SUPPORT: Specialized cannabis stores are important to provide the most focus on education about the product at the point of purchase. As most of us know, it is difficult to find knowledgeable staff in retail stores with a large number of different types of products (grocery, home renovation stores, etc). During this time of change in our society, it will be very important for retail staff to be well-trained, and highly focused on cannabis knowledge, in order to best protect public safety.

Where will Albertans be able to buy non-medical cannabis?
(continued)
Once cannabis is legalized in July 2018, in Alberta:
  • Online sales or home delivery of non-medical cannabis will not be allowed initially.
  • The government will consider online sales in the future once the retail system is established. Part of the reason is the government wants to be confident that the online seller can verify the buyer’s age.

OUR RESPONSE:

STRONGLY SUPPORT: Having consumers purchase cannabis in person is the best way to verify the purchaser’s identity, and provides the best opportunity to educate consumers at the point of purchase.

Where will Albertans be able to buy non-medical cannabis?
(continued)
Once cannabis is legalized in July 2018, in Alberta:
  • Employees in cannabis stores will have to be at least 18 years old.
  • All employees will be required to take provincially-certified training.
  • The provincial government will set minimum standards for store hours and locations. For example, stores would have to be a minimum distance from schools, daycares, liquor stores, and other cannabis stores.

OUR RESPONSE:

STRONGLY SUPPORT: Cannabis consumption should not be allowed in areas that children frequent, and should not be sold alongside alcohol, due to the increased health risks associated with combined usage.

Where will Albertans be able to buy non-medical cannabis?
(continued)

Option: establish government owned and operated stores.

  • Ontario, for example, has announced they will take this approach, which is consistent with how they sell alcohol.
  • This option could limit the opportunities for the black market from being involved in the new legal market.
  • This option gives government direct control over product variety and price, and may mean more consistent selection across the province.
  • This option would involve up-front costs to government, which may or may not be recoverable depending on how the legal market develops.
  • However, over the long-term, revenues from a public system may be higher than under a privatized model.
Where will Albertans be able to buy non-medical cannabis?
(continued)Option: license and regulate private stores.
  • This is consistent with Alberta’s approach to alcohol and tobacco sales, and is how beer and wine are sold in some other provinces.
  • This option would use extensive regulation and enforcement to help keep the legal market from being compromised while it is being established.
  • This option could be more flexible in meeting consumer demand and offering variety.
  • This option would provide Albertans opportunities to start small businesses.
  • This option would require less up-front costs for government, but could result in less revenue for the government over the long-term.

OUR RESPONSE:

THE PRVATE SECTOR: Even with the extensive network of resources commanded by the LCBO, the Ontario government expects to only be able to open 40 stores in time for legalization. This equates to roughly one store per 300,000 people, based on Ontario’s population.  This will be inadequate in being able to service their citizens, and be ineffective at combatting the black market. Alberta does not have any retail infrastructure to build on, and would be in a much more difficult position to build out a government owned retail network. Independently owned stores, licenced by AGLC, would be able scale up much faster, and would be able to provide Albertans with enough stores to serve Albertans. Criminal background checks and proper vetting of potential operators will ensure that only reputable businesses sell cannabis.

Albertans have access to numerous suppliers and literally hundreds of strains through the black market currently.  Albertans have also been able to purchase liquor through their choice of independently owned liquor outlets in Alberta since 1993. This has allowed Albertans access to a large variety of products, and a number of different purchasing experiences. Independently owned retail cannabis stores would create competition, which would increase the variety of cannabis products available to consumers. Retailers would quickly specialize, in order to best service their clientele. Some would focus on price point, some would focus on providing the most possible variety, and some would provide a high end concierge level of personized service. A government model would not provide this level of diversity which Albertans expect. The government owned stores would not likely be able to provide this variety, and give less incentive to consumers buying legal cannabis.

Independent retailers can open stores much more quickly than a government (public) model. This would mean thousands more jobs for Albertans by independently owned stores.

It is widely acknowledged that product shortages will occur for the first few years of legalized cannabis sales. This creates risk to cannabis retailers, and gives little assurance of profits for operators. The buildout of a government owned network of retail cannabis stores to adequately service Albertans would cost Alberta taxpayers over one hundred million dollars upfront, with no guarantee of profits down the road. With the Alberta Government currently carrying a debt of $45 billion, and forecasted to reach over $70 billion by 2020, entering the retail cannabis market exposes Alberta’s taxpayers to significant risk of increasing this debt.

Where will Albertans be able to use cannabis (both medical and non-medical)?
Once cannabis is legalized in July 2018, in Alberta:
  • Where people will be allowed to use cannabis in public will be restricted to help protect children and limit second-hand exposure for all Albertans. Restrictions will include wherever tobacco consumption is restricted, as well as in outdoor areas frequented by children, hospitals and school properties, and in vehicles.
  • There will be no consumption of cannabis at cannabis retail stores.
  • There will be no licenced cannabis cafes or lounges initially. Alberta will consider having these facilities in the future, after the federal government makes laws about edible cannabis.

OUR RESPONSE: 

STRONGLY AGREE: It is important to keep cannabis use away from areas frequented by children, and indoor public spaces. The clarity on edible cannabis laws is required before cannabis cafes and lounges are considered.

Will Albertans be able to grow their own cannabis?
Once cannabis is legalized in July 2018, in Alberta:
  • While federal laws will allow people to grow up to four cannabis plants per household for personal use, in Alberta they will not be allowed to grow them outside the home in a backyard or garden to prevent children from having easy access.
  • Renters, condo-dwellers, and those who live in multi-family dwellings will have to follow rules in rental agreements and condominium bylaws.

OUR RESPONSE: 

STRONGLY AGREE: Backyards and gardens are too accessible to children to be considered as acceptable locations for growing cannabis.

How will Alberta deal with drug-impaired driving?
Once cannabis is legalized in July 2018, in Alberta:
  • Government will give police more tools to deal with drug-impaired driving, including ability to issue roadside licence suspensions and temporarily seize an impaired driver’s vehicle.
  • It will be illegal to consume cannabis in a vehicle.
  • There will be additional training for law-enforcement to recognize cannabis impairment.
  • The government will expand the graduated license program to include a zero-tolerance for cannabis impairment for new drivers.
  • The government will continue public education to discourage drug-impaired driving.

OUR RESPONSE: 

STRONGLY AGREE: Police need to be provided with tools to help handle the issues around impairment. Consuming cannabis inside vehicles by passengers can lead to impairment of the driver by secondhand smoke, and should not be permitted.

 

YOUR VOICE MATTERS. Take the survey online here, until October 27, 2017.


For media inquiries, contact Amber Craig: amber@420clinic.ca

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