Licensed marijuana producers are eagerly anticipating legislation from the federal government to legalize cannabis.
More than 50 vendors from across Canada and the United States took part in the first annual Cannabis and Hemp Expo at the Edmonton Expo Centre on Saturday; the first event of its kind in Alberta.
“We decided to go ahead with it once the Liberals came into power because they obviously are going to be recreationally legalizing cannabis and that was a huge, huge boost to the industry,” said show director Kevin Blackburn.
Blackburn describes the expo as a place for retail vendors and licensed producers to reach out to customers.
“The point of all of this is to educate the public and create a forum for cannabis and hemp users to come down, purchase new products, get an understanding of the industry and where it is going,” he said.
It will be up to provinces to set a price for marijuana, the legal age and how it will be sold and distributed. The federal government will regulate supply. Municipal governments will be responsible for zoning, licensing, distance separations as well as local law enforcement.
Philippe Lucas, vice president of research and access for Tilray, said the company is planning to enter the recreational market as result of the expected legislation. The company is a medical cannabis production and research facility right now.
Lucas said he wants to see a taxation rate that would take control away from the black market.
“We just want to make sure the end product ends up about $10 a gram. If it’s higher than that, you’re going to have a niche for the black market to be selling,” he said.
David Frampton, client care director for Aurora Cannabis, doesn’t shy away from a tax of marijuana.
“Like any product, it should have a general sales tax potential because it is a good and service being provided,” he said.
As for the legal age for marijuana, Lucas said it should be tied to the age of alcohol.
“I think we would be sending a very strange message to young adults who are 18 or 19 years old for saying: alcohol is legal, you can go ahead and use alcohol… but that you’re not old enough to use cannabis until you’re 21 or 25,” he said.
Frampton said Aurora Cannabis is taking a wait-and-see approach to how marijuana will be sold. The company has built a hybrid greenhouse facility larger than 16 football fields in Leduc County, Alta.
“When a recreational model occurs, there’s going to be a larger amount of pot available to the general public. I believe it should be federally regulated, at least in regards to the sourcing of the supply so you can get as high quality a product as possible,” Frampton said.
Lucas does not think marijuana should be sold alongside alcohol and said zoning will be critical.
“You’re going to want to look for similar regulations as alcohol in terms of distance regulations away from schools or otherwise. I think anything that would be looking at anything beyond that would be unfortunately making it more difficult for people to access,” he said.
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said the city has already made some pre-emptive changes to bylaws in anticipation of legalization but there is still lots to do.
“At this point we know it is coming.
“The questions is, are we going to make sure that we don’t have an over-concentration of marijuana dispensaries, the same way we do with liquor stores, for example? I think we’ll go in that direction but we have to actually make changes to our zoning bylaw in order to do that,” he said.
“Most of the complex, regulatory work still rests with the provincial and federal government. Local governments need the support of senior orders of government and a clear timeline helps give everyone a deadline to get the work done.”
-with files from Shallima Maharaj