"Weeding" Through Alberta's Cannabis Framework

On October 4, 2017, the Government of Alberta released its long-awaited Alberta Cannabis Framework (the “Framework”). The Framework is the result of stakeholder consultations and is intended to provide a blueprint for how the province responds to the legalization of recreational cannabis next year. It is anticipated that July 1, 2018 is when the federal Bill C-45, known as the Cannabis Act, comes into effect (for more on the Cannabis Act, please see our prior email alert: “Cannabis – A Budding Industry”).

The Framework provides a first glance into the Provincial Government’s plans for the regulation of recreational cannabis. Here is a summary of what Albertans can expect:

  • 18 will be the minimum legal age for cannabis purchase, consumption and possession, in line with the current ages for alcohol and tobacco
  • There will be a zero tolerance policy for cannabis use by minors, and possession of less than 5 grams will lead to seizure, notification of parents and a ticket
  • 30 grams will be the legal limit for public possession for adults (this has been equated to about 40 marijuana cigarettes)
  • Public consumption will fall under existing tobacco laws
  • There will be no consumption in vehicles, which will apply to both drivers and passengers alike
  • 4 cannabis plants will be allowed per household, with their height limited to 100 cm
  • There will be a prohibition of growing cannabis plants outdoors
  • The Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission will manage wholesaling and distribution and
  • Cannabis will not be sold in stores where alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceuticals are available.

There are a number of key issues that remain to be determined. Unfortunately, the Framework does not address one of the questions for people looking to enter this industry. Specifically, the province still needs to decide if sales of cannabis will be publicly or privately run. Pricing, store hours and zoning requirements for stores are other issues that also have yet to be decided. Online sales and licensed establishments will not be permitted initially, but consideration of these items will be reserved for later stages in the legislation.

The Province is also looking at working with employers, labour groups and employees to address impairment in the workplace. This may result in developing additional regulations to deal with the ever present issue posed by cannabis use at work and impairment.

Albertans can provide their feedback on the Framework until October 27, 2017. Options are to complete this survey or send a written submission to acs@gov.ab.ca

By way of comparison to the Alberta Framework, in Ontario, 19 will be the legal minimum age for the purchase and consumption of cannabis. Sales of cannabis will be through stores dedicated to that purpose and controlled by the province’s liquor control board. Meanwhile, consumption will be limited to private residences.

The Federal Government also issued some cannabis related news – perhaps unsurprisingly, by announcing a tax. On October 3, 2017, the Federal government proposed a federal excise tax of 10% on marijuana sales of $10 or greater (or a flat $1 tax on sales below $10). It is not yet clear if this proposed tax will be imposed as a duty on the manufacturer (as is the case with tobacco) or as tax payable by the consumer at the time of sale (like GST/HST).

This tax will be in addition to any tax imposed at the provincial level, in the same manner as alcohol and tobacco sales. The Alberta government has not yet indicated how it will tax marijuana at the provincial level.

You can find a full copy of the framework by clicking here.

We are well-positioned to assist clients in preparing for the new Cannabis Act legislation. Please do not hesitate to contact David Risling or Maurice Dransfeld in Edmonton, or Alexis Moulton in Calgary for more information.