Lobby well underway in Alberta to influence final decisions of cannabis legalization

Moments after Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley unveiled the proposed Alberta Cannabis Framework plan for selling legalized pot, the Alberta Liquor Store Association issued a news release urging the government to allow its members to sell marijuana.

Many issues to resolve as province takes first steps in legalization of cannabis

Proposed bylaw changes would ban smoking cannabis or e-cigarettes in most public places in the Capital Region including parks and within seven metres of buildings. (CBC)

Moments after Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley unveiled the proposed Alberta Cannabis Framework plan for legalized pot, the Alberta Liquor Store Association issued a news release urging the government to allow its members to sell marijuana.

Association president Ivonne Martinez said in a statement she strongly supports the government's position that alcohol and cannabis not be "co-located."

But Martinez went on to explain that liquor stores are already zoned for retailing a controlled substance and reconfiguring stores with a separate retail unit to sell cannabis would not be difficult.
A coalition of health groups is urging the Alberta government to proclaim laws preventing sales of certain tobacco products to minors, before cannabis use is legal. (CBC)

Ganley told reporters Wednesday the government is undecided if cannabis should be distributed through government-owned-and-operated stores or through privately-run stores, saying both systems have benefits.

• Alberta unveils marijuana framework, calls for minimum age of 18 to buy

Ganley noted if government ran the retail stores, it would have greater control over the cannabis black market and may be better at keeping cannabis from minors.

But Ganley acknowledged private operators could set up a system more easily and would keep additional costs and risks away from the Alberta taxpayer.

"Here in Alberta we don't presently retail pretty much anything at the government of Alberta, so we would have to put a lot of systems in place in order to do that."

Another consideration is how government could earn revenue from cannabis sales in future, Ganley said.

Anti-tobacco laws

A coalition of health organizations is encouraging the provincial government not to let anti-tobacco legislation take a back seat to cannabis legalization.

Campaign for a Smoke Free Alberta is urging the province to proclaim sections of the Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act that restrict the sales of certain tobacco products to minors.

Les Hagen, executive director of Action on Smoking & Health, said sections of the act have been "stalled" while attention is focussed on cannabis.

Hagen is also concerned that focus on cannabis will "re-normalize" smoking.

"To a five year old, it doesn't matter whether it's someone smoking cannabis, or e-cigarettes, or a water pipe or a real cigarette. It's all smoking," Hagen said.

"Over time those impressions weaken the resolve of children, and they do contribute to the uptake of tobacco use among kids." 

Impaired driving concerns

The United Conservative Party (UCP) is calling on the government to offer greater detail on its plan.

"The NDP government must provide immediate answers about combating cannabis on the black market," wrote UCP Mike Ellis in a news release.

Ellis, a former police officer, is also concerned about how police will be able to test for the presence of cannabis in impaired drivers.

The Edmonton Police Service says it isn't in a position to comment on the cannabis framework at this time, but will likely meet with the government in the near future.