Town to look at local cannabis retail rules
Province: Provincial government unveils regulations for retailers
Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018 06:00 am
Okotoks’ mayor says town council will have to work quickly to create rules for cannabis retailers after provincial regulations were unveiled last week.
“There’s definitely going to be a rush,” said Okotoks Mayor Bill Robertson. “We’ve only got four-and-a-half months so we’ll definitely have a rush.”
The Province expects to licence as many as 250 marijuana retailers this year.
Provincial guidelines announced Feb. 16 outline the application process for retail licences, who will be able to work at a store and required security measures. The rules also state retailers must be at least 100 metres from schools and provincial health care facilities, although municipalities will have the flexibility to create their own rules for locations.
The federal government initially announced its intent to allow legal marijuana sales starting July 1 of this year, but it’s now expected to become legal in August.
It’s a tight timeline, but Robertson said the Town should be able to have its own rules in place by July 1.
Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley said the provincial regulations are intended to keep cannabis out of the hands of children, protect public health, eliminate the illegal market and promote safety on roads, in work places and in public space.
“As with all aspects of legalization announced so far, we believe that our regulations will strike the right balance,” she said. “The system that we are putting in place in Alberta will create an environment which retailers can legally sell cannabis, provide access to safe products, while keeping the health and safety of Albertans in mind.”
The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission will oversee the retail market for cannabis.
Anyone applying to open a cannabis store will have to go through a mandatory background check and retailers will only be able to employ workers qualified by the AGLC.
Employees will also be required to have a criminal background check and they must take an AGLC course on cannabis retail. Anyone who has previous convictions for trafficking or producing illegal drugs, or who has associations with organized crime or violence, will be ineligible for a retail licence or to work in a cannabis store.
These provisions will not cover anyone who was charged in cases of simple possession of drugs.
“The intention is to set up a legitimate market that is free from ties to organized crime,” said Ganley.
Applications were available as of Feb. 16, but the AGLC will not accept any submissions until at least March 6. No single person, business or organization will be able to hold more than 15 per cent of the total number of licences issued by the Province.
The rules also state retailers must be at least 100 metres from schools and provincial health care facilities, although municipalities will have the flexibility to create their own rules for locations.
“We only included schools and health care facilities, but they can add additional setbacks for other locations,” she said.
She said small municipalities can also reduce the buffer distance in cases where the 100-metre minimum encompasses the majority of the community leaving little to no space for retailers to set up shop.
Marijuana retailers cannot co-locate with the sale of alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceuticals. Hours of operation for cannabis retailers can be open anytime between 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. – the same as liquor stores.
Municipalities have the ability to change operating hours.
People will not be able to buy more than 30 grams in a single transaction and product will only be sold in sealed containers.
“The federal government has set a legal possession limit of 30 grams, so if you’re carrying more than 30 grams around in public you are potentially liable of an offence, so that’s not a very good idea,” said Ganley.
Use of cannabis will not be allowed in stores and minors will not be allowed in stores, even if accompanied by an adult.
Only the AGLC will be allowed to sell marijuana online and further details will be released in the coming months.
The Province did not set a price for marijuana, but the AGLC will be able to set a minimum price.
“We are cognizant of the fact that one of the policy objectives is to reduce the illicit market, so the final price needs to do that,” said Dave Berry, AGLC vice-president.
Michael MacIntyre, Okotoks development services director, said the Town has been waiting for the Province to announce its retail regulations.
“We’re prepared as I think we can reasonably be and now that we have this information – as of Friday, Feb. 16 – we’ll reconvene next week as administration and lay out what are the facts here and what we need to bring to council,” he said.
MacIntyre said the Town doesn’t have the authority to prevent a legal business from opening shop in Okotoks. He said the Town needs to strike a balance between being respectful of community values and allowing legal businesses to open their doors.
“We can’t prohibit a use, we do have the right and authority to regulate where within the community businesses associated with those uses can be located,” he said.
Robertson said the Town has received some inquiries from potential marijuana retailers looking at setting up shop in Okotoks. It’s important now for the Town to ensure it gets its own rules right from the start, he said.
“It’s hard to get stricter in the future, it’s better to determine what we want and do it right the first time,” said Robertson.