One of the most anticipated pieces of legislation in recent memory was unveiled Thursday and Alberta cities, as well as the provincial government, are responding.
The federal Liberal government has finally launched its long-awaited effort to legalize recreational marijuana, setting in motion a host of sweeping policy changes for public safety and health across Canada.
Alberta municipalities are very concerned about the short time frames for implementing the new laws.
The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) said Thursday it has been working hard to make sure systems are in place to educate the public, restrict inappropriate use, address health and safety issues and co-ordinate law enforcement through RCMP and local police.
“The speed at which government intends to move ahead puts municipalities at risk in preventing adverse impacts in our communities,” AUMA President Lisa Holmes said. “Many of the health and safety impacts are complex and require collaboration between all three levels of government and time to address.”
The AUMA brought up challenges concerning fire and building codes to regulate growing marijuana, and business taxes for facilities that plan to produce it commercially.
“We need to ensure that the federal legislation and associated programs provide sufficient authority for municipalities to influence the sale and consumption of marijuana in their communities,” Holmes said.
Scroll down to read the AUMA’s full statement on marijuana legalization.
“We are pleased the federal government has followed the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization’s recommendation to allow the provinces to set their own policies for the distribution and retailing of recreational marijuana,” Alberta Liquor Store Association president Ivonne Martinez said. “Ottawa’s recognition that provinces are best positioned to make these decisions will no doubt be welcomed across the country.
“Furthermore, we’re encouraged to see the government reject the task force’s recommendation to prohibit the co-location of marijuana and alcohol sales.”
Scroll down to read the Alberta Liquor Store Association’s full statement.
The City of Edmonton posted a list of facts and reminders on its website Thursday, outlining current municipal marijuana and cannabis rules and regulations.
“At this time, marijuana or cannabis dispensaries are illegal and are not licensed or permitted by the City of Edmonton.
“City staff are taking proactive measures to prepare for upcoming federal changes regarding the legalization of cannabis and the alignment with the Zoning Bylaw 12800. Municipal controls in this area are only possible if other orders of government provide that role to municipalities,” the website reads.
Visit the city’s website to learn more about the proposed changes to Zoning Bylaw 12800, which include introducing definitions to make sure Edmonton is ready for the introduction of legalization of cannabis sales and consumption, “including classifications for Cannabis Retail Sales and Cannabis Lounges.”
Edmonton city staff members have prepared draft amendments to several bylaws in anticipation of the federal legislation.
Under Edmonton’s current regulations, non-medical production, sale and use of cannabis is illegal and is not licensed or permitted.
Federal legalization could happen as early as summer 2018, but the city said it would take longer to implement legislation at the provincial and possibly the municipal level.
Watch below: Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says he will press the federal government more a higher mandated minimum age for legalized marijuana users.
“Certainly the city has been doing a ton of work on this in order to be ready, so it’s not catching us unawares,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi said.
“I will say that if rumours are true that the federal government will set a federally mandated minimum age of 18 but give the provinces the opportunity to vary that, I will press the province to go higher.”
“I am convinced by the brain science that people under 21 or even 25 could do serious damage if they start becoming regular marijuana users, so I don’t want to see this on university campuses and I want to see it restricted to those who are older,” Nenshi said. “I don’t know if I’ll be successful in that, but I will press the government for that.”
Through its Land Use Bylaw, Calgary currently regulates businesses that provide medical marijuana counselling. There are restrictions on their location and all businesses require a development permit.
Council is looking at the impact of federal legalization on public health and safety, policing and social supports.
Alberta’s justice minister addressed the federal legislation Thursday afternoon.
“As a province, we will need to take the lead on where cannabis can be sold and where it can be consumed,” Kathleen Ganley said.
She said Alberta’s three main areas of focus are: keeping marijuana away from children, keeping profits away from criminals, and protecting roads and workplaces.
“The federal government has also proposed 18 as the national minimum age for marijuana use but provinces may set their age higher. This is something we will raise as part of the engagement process we will be launching,” Ganley said.
She said topics the province will definitely seek Albertans’ input on are: minimum legal age, health and safety concerns, and keeping children safe. She noted the justice, health and finance ministries will lead the discussion.
Ganley said it’s difficult to estimate what the cost to the province will be in terms of who (which level of government) will regulate what.
Watch below: Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley said the federal government’s timelines are ambitious. She said the province will seek Albertans’ input on issues like age, health and safety concerns and children.
Premier Rachel Notley said marijuana legalization is a very complex issue and it will be a tight timeline to get everything in place.
“We’re going to try very hard to meet those time limits, and if we don’t, we’ll have to go back and say, ‘You know what? We need more time.'”
She said she wants to speak with Albertans about the legal age and where marijuana will be sold, among other topics.
“Our government is focused on protecting kids, protecting health, protecting safety in our workplaces and our highways, and doing so in a cost-effective way,” the premier said. “It’s a very ambitious project and there’s a lot of work to be done to make sure that we get it right.”
“What is important is that we make the kinds of decisions that keep criminals out of it… and preserve public health and public safety,” Notley said. “I think it’s possible to strike that balance. The path to striking that balance is not absolutely clear yet… I think if we get it right, it can work, but I also know there’s a lot of heavy lifting to be done to get there.”
Watch below: The long-awaited pot legislation has been tabled by the federal Liberals. If it becomes law, here’s what you could legally do.
The Calgary 420 Cannabis Community anticipated the federal rules would be more restrictive.
“I’m glad to see I’m allowed to share with my friends or family up to 30 grams,” Keith Fagin said. “So that’s nice to see. Like alcohol, if I produce alcohol, beer, wine, I can share freely.”
He would like to see marijuana sold separately from alcohol.
“Provinces, I think, should take on the regulations like they do [with] alcohol. And I would like to see them as private businesses, but not in the liquor store. It’s a completely different intoxicant. It needs to be treated differently. You know it’s safer than alcohol — we have no recorded deaths from cannabis. With alcohol, of course, there’s deaths every day and destruction. So it does need to be separate.”
According to Fagin, the timeline is doable.
“Colorado did it in a year… and they had no one to follow — there was no Washington, there was no jurisdiction that did it except for maybe Portugal, where they decriminalized all drugs in 2001. So, if Colorado can do it from scratch inside of a year, we can certainly do it in 14, 15 months.”
The AMA applauded the marijuana legislation for establishing “stiff new penalties for drug-impaired driving.” However, it said other issues still had to be ironed out.
In order to effectively address drug-impaired driving, the AMA is asking for clear laws, tools for law enforcement, and public education.
“Today’s legislation makes clear that governments, police services and other traffic safety partners still have a lot of work yet to do,” said Jeff Kasbrick, the AMA’s vice president of government and stakeholder relations.
“This is a complex issue that requires considerable police training and public education. We’re still waiting for the details on additional funding to make the legislation enforceable. This needs to happen sooner rather than later.”
“Although this is federal legislation, the fact is that a large burden of the responsibility around education and equipping police services with the necessary tools and training will fall to the provinces,” Kasbrick said. “We agree with the government of Alberta that we’re facing an ambitious timeline and we are committed to working together on these important issues to ensure road safety.”
Watch below: Alberta’s Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley said citizens will be asked for their thoughts on how the legalization of recreational marijuana should be implemented.
– Sales to be restricted to people age 18 and older, although provinces would have the jurisdiction to increase their own minimum age.
– Adults 18 and older would be allowed to publicly possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis, or its equivalent in non-dried form.
– Sales by mail or courier through a federally licensed producer would be allowed in provinces that lack a regulated retail system.
– Adults aged 18 and older would be allowed to grow up to four cannabis plants for each residence, with plants not to exceed one metre in height.
– Adults aged 18 and older would also be allowed to produce legal cannabis products, such as food or drinks, for personal use at home.
– At first, sales will entail only fresh and dried cannabis, cannabis oils and seeds and plants for cultivation. Sales of edibles will come later, once regulations for production and sale can be
– Possession, production and distribution outside the legal system would remain illegal, as would imports or exports without a federal permit. Such permits will cover only limited purposes, such
as medical or scientific cannabis and industrial hemp.
– Travellers entering Canada would still be subject to inspections for prohibited goods, including cannabis.
– The existing program for access to medical marijuana would continue as it currently exists.
— With files from The Canadian Press
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