Alberta unveils plan for legalized marijuana, sets legal age at 18

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Courtesy of Globe and Mail

Alberta’s draft plan for cannabis legalization sets the minimum age at 18 – the province’s current legal drinking age – but the government is still deciding between a government-run or private system for sales.

The Alberta government is also proposing that people be able to use recreational marijuana at home or in public areas where smoking is allowed, but will ban consumption near schools or hospitals, or in areas frequented by children. The public possession limit for adults will be 30 grams – the equivalent of about 40 joints – with a “zero-tolerance” policy for youth possession.

Read also: Trudeau’s plan for marijuana tax catches premiers off guard

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Alberta is the third province to introduce the broad strokes of its cannabis legalization plan, following Ontario and New Brunswick last month. Under the draft plan unveiled Wednesday, the province is still deciding between government-owned and operated stores, or licensed and regulated private sales, and will seek more public input this month.

But the province says that no matter what system is eventually introduced, only specialized cannabis stores will be allowed to sell cannabis products – with no association with alcohol, tobacco or pharmaceuticals permitted. Online sales won’t be a part of the mix unless the government can find a reliable system for ensuring age verification at the point of purchase and delivery.

Under the draft plan, the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission will be given the mandate for oversight, compliance and distribution of non-medical cannabis. The government says the commission will serve as a central wholesaler for all products, and ensure a level playing field for large and small producers.

Alberta said it is continuing to work with the federal government on a tax model.

Ottawa introduced federal legislation this spring to legalize recreational cannabis by July of next year, but has left the details of how it will be sold, and the rules governing consumption, to the provinces.

Ontario became the first province to detail its plans for selling marijuana, which will involve a combination of government-run retail stores and online sales. Roughly 40 storefronts will open across the province at the outset of legalization, expanding to 150 by 2020.

Ontario will make it illegal for anyone under the age of 19 to purchase the product, a limit that New Brunswick has also been considering. However, New Brunswick has not made final decisions on the age of consumption or the size of the retail network.

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Alberta already heard feedback regarding recreational marijuana legalization from 45,000 residents through an online survey in the summer.

The province is asking for feedback to its draft plan by Oct. 27. Some pieces of legislation could be introduced as early as later this fall. Alberta also said it will introduce “new tools” to address drug-impaired driving that align with Ottawa’s Bill C-46, legislation designed to update provisions of the Criminal Code in step with recreational cannabis legalization, including an allowance for roadside saliva testing.

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