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Weeding out Publicly Owned and Operated Cannabis Store-Fronts


By: Amanda Cramm

Since the Federal Government announced their plans to legalize recreational cannabis by July 1, 2018, Alberta has been grappling with controversial decisions with respect to preparing for this legislative change. On October 4, 2017 Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley unveiled Alberta’s Cannabis Framework (the “Framework”), which specified that cannabis is to be sold in stand-alone stores with no sales of alcohol, tobacco or pharmaceuticals’. Subsequent to the release of the Framework, the government sought further input from the public and key stakeholders on the question of whether the sale of cannabis would be privately or publicly controlled.

As of early November 2017, the Alberta government is favoring a hybrid model for the sale of cannabis whereby private retailers, who are licensed and regulated by the province, will be permitted to sell cannabis while the province will be strictly in control of the operation of on-line sales of cannabis. Pursuant to the Framework, the licensing and regulation of private retailers allows greater flexibility in meeting consumer demand and in turn may encourage consumers to purchase cannabis from the legal market as opposed to the black market. In addition, it has been suggested that the private retailer model will provide greater opportunities for small businesses and thus the economy. The government’s retention of control of on-line sales of cannabis seems to be a response to the public’s safety concerns with on-line sales and seeks to strike a balance between the flexibility that private retailers can provide with ensuring the health and safety of Albertans. This news comes despite the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) adopting a resolution in October 2017 supporting all cannabis outlets be publicly owned and operated by the Alberta government.

Without question, there are numerous legal issues surrounding the impact that legalization of cannabis will have on the public including: workplace codes of conduct, criminal charges in relation to the sale, distribution and production of cannabis, cannabis within the healthcare system and insurance implications. We look forward to continuing to follow the development of the legalization of cannabis and advising clients in response to issues raised within this emerging field of law.

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