The Alberta government plans to control the online sale of legalized marijuana but will leave over-the-counter sales to private operators.
Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley introduced the rules in proposed legislation Thursday, but details on how sales would work have yet to be determined.
“This is a major shift for our province and one that has to be made very quickly with a lot of complex questions,” Ganley said after the bill was tabled.
“We believe this plan represents what the majority of Albertans want to see.”
There are still questions about how online weed would be delivered and whether liquor stores would be allowed to sell marijuana if they erected a barrier and had a separate entrance for cannabis customers.
Ganley said the government will finalize those decisions by early next year.
Marijuana distribution would be run by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission and there would be ways to ensure that minors couldn’t buy weed off the internet.
Private cannabis stores would have to be separate from stores selling alcohol, tobacco or pharmaceuticals – but how that would be legally defined hasn’t been determined.
How many cannabis stores would be allowed would be up to the commission, but retailers would have to undergo background checks. All staff would have to be 18 or older.
The bill also proposes legislation for initiatives announced last month by Ganley in a draft cannabis framework:
- Minimum age to buy and use cannabis is to be 18, the same as alcohol.
- Maximum public possession limit is to be 30 grams, equal to about 40 joints.
- Zero tolerance for youth possessing pot.
- Maximum of four pot plants per household.
- Smoking and vaping cannabis banned wherever tobacco use is banned.
- No cannabis allowed on hospital grounds, schools and anywhere kids gather such as playgrounds, splash parks and sports fields.
Provinces and territories have been working on rules for cannabis since the federal government announced last spring that it will legalize recreational use of marijuana by July 1.
Watch below: Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley, the CEO of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce and Jeff Mooji with 420 Clinic speak about Alberta’s proposed cannabis legislation on Thursday.
Ottawa will be in charge of overall health issues and regulations, while provinces will distribute and sell cannabis while keeping roads, schools and workplaces safe.
The provinces and Ottawa are still working on who should get what percentage of taxes.
Ottawa has proposed a 50-50 split, but Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci has said the provinces deserve most, if not all, the taxes, since they are doing the lion’s share of spending on distribution and enforcement.
The federal government is revising and toughening up Criminal Code charges for anyone caught driving impaired while under the influence of cannabis or a mix of cannabis and alcohol.
Earlier this week, Alberta Transportation Minister Brian Mason announced the province will add its own administrative penalties, including zero tolerance on cannabis for new drivers.
The Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police, in an open letter this week, said the July 1 deadline doesn’t leave enough time to create “the regulatory framework to ensure the safety of Albertans.”
The chiefs noted Ottawa has yet to sign off on roadside devices needed to test for cannabis impairment. They also said the science on what constitutes marijuana impairment is far from definitive.
The province is still working on updating workplace rules to address the risk of cannabis impairment on the job.