Regulating Cannabis – Key Highlights From Bill 2624-Nov-17
By Amanda Cramm
On November 16, 2017, the provincial government introduced Bill 26: An Act to Control and Regulate Cannabis ( “Bill 26”) at the Legislative Assembly of Alberta and passed at First Reading. Bill 26 has been introduced to empower elements of the Alberta Cannabis Framework (the “Framework”) through legislation. The Framework was unveiled by Justice Minister Kathleen Galey on October 4, 2017. This article provides an overview of some key aspects of Bill 26 and is not intended to be an exhaustive review.
Bill 26 largely makes amendments to the Gaming and Liquor Act to provide authority for the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (the “Commission”) to provide oversight, compliance and manage the distribution of cannabis. It also establishes the safeguards for the sale of cannabis and regulations concerning the buying, consuming, growing and possessing of cannabis. Further, it sets out provincial offences related to minors’ consumption, public consumption, and consumption of cannabis in vehicles and impaired driving.
Cannabis: means a cannabis plant and anything referred to in Schedule 1 (i.e. any part of a cannabis plant, including the phytocannabinoids produced by, or found in, such a plant, regardless of whether that part has been processed or not, and any substance or mixture of substances that contains or has on it any part of such a plant) but does not include anything referred to in Schedule 2. Schedule 1 and Schedule 2 are outlined in the federal cannabis legislation, Bill C-45: An Act respecting cannabis and to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Criminal Code and other Acts (the “Federal Act”).
Cannabis License: means a license under this Act [Bill 26] that authorizes the purchase, sale, transportation, possession, storage or use of cannabis.
Cannabis Supplier: means a person who holds a license under the Federal Act that authorizes the person to produce cannabis for commercial purposes or to sell cannabis to the Commission.
Minor: means any person who is below the age of 18.
The minimum age for purchase and consumption will align with the provincial minimum age for purchasing and consuming alcohol, which is 18 years old. Bill 26 places a duty on cannabis licensees to ensure that no person under the age of 18 enters a licensed premise or sells cannabis to a minor.
Safeguards for Sale
The Commission’s authority empowers it to import, purchase, sell, transport, possess and store cannabis. The Commission will be responsible for the issuance of cannabis licenses, oversight of compliance, inspection of and addressing violations of licenses.
Bill 26 prohibits cannabis licensees from selling cannabis unless it has been produced by an authorized person pursuant to the Federal Act. Seemingly, the purpose of this requirement will be to ensure the safety of cannabis for consumption and address potential public health concerns.
The Alberta government will retain control over the on-line sale of cannabis and prohibits the purchase of cannabis on-line except from a department or agency designated by the Alberta government.
Buying, Selling, Consuming, Growing and Possessing Cannabis
Buying: The purchase of recreational cannabis will be permitted only at: (1) private retail stores who are authorized cannabis licensees; and (2) online sales operated by the Government of Alberta.
Selling: No cannabis supplier will be permitted to sell cannabis to any person other than the Commission, unless the cannabis supplier holds a license under the Federal Act that provides otherwise. Therefore, cannabis licensees can expect to purchase cannabis from the Commission. Bill 26 requires that the sale of cannabis be carried out separately from any other business of the cannabis licensee, and will not be able to sell cannabis if they sell alcohol, tobacco or pharmaceuticals. In addition, cannabis licensees will be prohibited from paying employees in relation to the amount of cannabis they sell. Cannabis licensees will also be required to follow rules on the conduct allowed in a licensed premise which largely relate to maintaining law and order and the health and safety of persons in the licensed premises. The Commission will also be responsible for setting the days and hours for when cannabis may be sold, given or used in a licensed premise. This has yet to be determined.
Consumption: The consumption of cannabis by way of vaping or smoking will be prohibited in numerous public spaces, including: anywhere a person is prohibited from smoking under the Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act; hospital, school or child care property; and, in or within a prescribed distance from: a playground, sports or playing field, a skateboard or bicycle park, a zoo, an outdoor theatre, an outdoor pool or splash pad, or any other area or place.
Growing: The Federal Act permits adults to grow up to four (4) plants per household, as long as the seeds have been purchased from a cannabis licensee. However, renters and condo-dwellers may be restricted in growing of plants due to rental agreements and condominium bylaws. Pursuant to Bill 26, growing cannabis is prohibited unless within accordance with the regulations, which have yet to be provided.
Possessing: Adults who are at least 18 years old, will be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis in a public place. A person under the age of 18 years old, who is found to be possessing more than 5 grams of cannabis will be subject to criminal charges. If a minor is possessing less than 5 grams of cannabis, the cannabis will be seized, parents or guardians will be notified and the minor may receive further penalties similar to those for underage possession of alcohol.
In furtherance of the Framework’s policy priorities of keeping cannabis out of the hands of children and youth and protecting public health, Bill 26 prohibits cannabis licensees from promoting the sale of a supplier’s cannabis, in addition to, giving the Commission authority to implement policies respecting the advertisement and promotion of cannabis. These policies will be in addition to the strict rules proposed by the Federal Act about advertising, labelling and packaging cannabis. The development of these policies will certainly bring controversy regarding a corporation’s right to freedom of speech pursuant to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We anticipate that stakeholders will look to the tobacco industry to determine what limitations may be imposed on the advertisement and promotion of cannabis.
There are three main offences enshrined in Bill 26, namely:
- Minors are prohibited from purchasing, obtaining, possessing or attempting to purchase, obtain or possess cannabis.
- Unless authorized by provincial legislation or the Federal Act, no person may display, store or directly or indirectly offer to sell cannabis.
- To combat impaired driving, cannabis is prohibited from being in a vehicle unless the vehicle is used as a temporary residence (i.e. a motorhome). The transportation of cannabis will also only be permitted in a vehicle if it is contained in closed packaging and out of reach of the driver and other occupants of the vehicle.
There are several steps in passing a Bill in the Legislature. Bill 26 was passed at First Reading but will likely face debate and revisions in the subsequent Readings and at the Committee of a Whole.