Marijuana wasn't 'cash cow' for Colorado, Alberta's justice minister learns

Marijuana legalization in Colorado hasn't led to widespread criminal activity but nor has it been a "cash cow" for the state, says Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley after travelling there for a cannabis crash course.

Kathleen Ganley went to U.S. as part of Alberta's preparations for pot legalization in spring 2017

Alberta Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Kathleen Ganley travelled to Colorado to learn about their experience with legalizing marijuana. (Peter Evans/CBC)

Alberta's justice minister says marijuana has not been a "cash cow" for Colorado, but neither has it led to widespread criminal activity.

Kathleen Ganley travelled to Colorado late last week to talk to U.S. officials about how they dealt with the legalization of marijuana in their state.

The federal Liberals intend to legalize pot in the spring of 2017, and provinces are scrambling to prepare for the change.

The priority for Alberta, Ganley says, is to get a regulatory framework in place to ensure that pot stays out of the hands of children, and that provincial roadways remain safe from impaired drivers.

"It really did highlight the number of different systems that have to move together on this," Ganley said, citing heath, justice, fire safety, zoning, and regulation of the plants themselves.

However, she said Colorado didn't experience any of the "dramatic" changes that many were predicting back when the U.S. state legalized cannabis in January 2014.

"It didn't solve all of the problems or become a cash cow the way some of the proponents would suggest," she said. "But it also didn't result in some massive upswing in criminal behaviour the way some detractors suggest," she added.

Tax revenues raised were sufficient to cover the cost of enforcement, she said, with some money left over to cover smaller projects at a municipal level.

Alberta's Justice Minister is back home, after travelling to Colorado to find out how that state went about legalizing marijuana. Kathleen Ganley talked to Denver's Attorney General as well as city, police and fire department officials.

Ganley said the much-cited statistic about impaired driving cases doubling is overblown.

"The number of those impaired charges based on marijuana [compared to] alcohol are so miniscule … that it's not having that huge an impact," Ganley told The Homestretch on Monday afternoon.

Ganley travelled to Colorado on Thursday with one staff member. The cost of the three-day trip is estimated at just over $4,000.

With files from The Homestretch.