Province releases draft cannabis framework

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The Province of Alberta released its draft cannabis framework Oct. 4 while at the same time asking Albertans to weigh in on the plan.

“We took what we heard from Albertans, along with what we heard from experts and what we learned from experience in other jurisdictions that have already legalized, as well as conversations with provinces that are working through the same process and crafted the draft framework,” said Kathleen Ganley, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, during a press conference in Edmonton Oct. 4.

“I want to emphasize that this is a draft for consideration and further input from Albertans.”

The provincial government asked Albertans to provide feedback on the federal government’s proposed cannabis legislation through an online survey, which launched June 2 and remained online until July 31.

According to Ganley, approximately 45,000 Albertans participated in the survey, which led to the development of this framework.

Roundtable meetings with municipal governments and other stakeholders, sector-specific meetings and additional surveys at public events also took place during this stage of engagement.

Under the proposed framework, Albertans over the age of 18 will be allowed to possess and consume cannabis once it is legalized by the federal government July 1, 2018. There will be restrictions on where residents can consume the drug, however.

According to information released by the province, anyone 18 or older will be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis in public and consume it in private homes and in some places where smoking tobacco is already allowed.

Consumption will be restricted in public places where children are present, including playgrounds and near schools.

Ganley said Albertans will be allowed to grow up to four cannabis plants in their own homes but not outdoors where children could get access.

Cannabis can be sold in stores but not those that also sell alcohol, tobacco or pharmaceuticals, and online sales will not initially be allowed.

Driving under the influence of cannabis was identified by Albertans as being a concern, according to Ganley.

“Albertans told us they feared an increase in drug impaired driving once cannabis is legal. With the legalization only months away, our government is working to develop provincial legislation that will address changes to administrative penalties for impaired driving that coincide with the changes coming to the federal criminal code,” she said.

“We intend to have provincial legislation in place before the July 1 deadline. We will also continue to work with law enforcement and stakeholders to encourage Albertans to make safe decisions about driving.”

Ganley said the federal government is responsible for determining how impairment by cannabis will be measured and the development of new screening devices.

Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) Canada is one of many stakeholders asked by the provincial government to contribute feedback.

According to Denise Dubyk, past president of MADD Canada and board member of MADD Calgary, MADD has been providing recommendations for a number of years to both federal and provincial governments on how best to handle the issue of drug-impaired driving.

“I think it’s wonderful that we’ve been given the opportunity to be able to put forth our recommendations,” Dubyk said.

“We’re actually pleased with where the (provincial) government is going with the enforcement issues. One of the things that MADD is looking at is to ensure that the drug driving sanctions are the same as the (alcohol) impaired driving sanctions in the province.”

According to Ganley, Albertans will have until Oct. 27 to provide feedback on the proposed framework. The draft framework is available on the Province of Alberta website at alberta.ca/cannabis

“I strongly encourage all Albertans to read it and participate in our online survey,” Ganley said.

“What we hear will help us finalize our decisions and turn our policies into legislation later this year. We know this is a system that will evolve over time and we owe it to Albertans to get it right.”

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