Privatization of cannabis retail is the right call for Albertans

Province releases plans for legalized cannabis

The Province of Alberta has finally released their plans for legalized cannabis, after the Government of Canada announced Bill C-45, which is slated to come into effect on July 1st, 2018.

The main story out of the announcement is that the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) will oversee the development of private retail locations, with the government only being involved in online retail.

This is welcome news for Albertans, as many Albertans feared that the Notley government would develop government-run retail shops similar to those proposed by the Province of Ontario.

“This legislation represents the culmination of extensive engagement and research on legalized cannabis. It puts our province in a position to not only meet the federal deadline of July 2018, but does so in a way that is responsible and promotes public health and safety for all Albertans,” Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Kathleen Ganley said.

The engagement involved 60,000 Albertans and 100 organizations being able to give their feedback to the proposed legislation.

What this means for Albertans is that the province has allowed much of the infrastructure cost to be shared with entrepreneurs. This also means that Albertans have the opportunity to provide innovation in a brand-new market.

While a private model, like LCBO in Ontario, could have eventually reaped benefits in a market that has been estimated to be worth as much as $10 billion according to CIBC World Markets, it would have been difficult for taxpayers to stomach the upfront infrastructure costs of creating enough retail stores in the province to reach demand.

With the help of private industry, much of that infrastructure can be shared with businesses willing to assume the risk without significant costs to the taxpayer.

The announcement was also welcome news to the Albertan business community.

“We are pleased with the government’s announcement to go with the private retail model as cannabis becomes legalized by July 2018. This direction strikes a healthy balance that supports free enterprise, responsible government and the safety of Albertans,” Ken Kobly, president and CEO of Alberta Chambers of Commerce said.

While there’s some fear about public safety regarding the privatization of cannabis sales, the province has laid down guidelines to ensure safety including: setting the minimum age for purchase at 18; establishing provincial offences for anyone under 18 possessing five grams or less of cannabis; give AGLC the mandate to oversee distribution, compliance and enforcement for private cannabis retailers; establishing authority to set regulatory guidelines and licence requirements for private cannabis retailers; operating online cannabis sales; banning co-location of cannabis sales with alcohol, pharmaceuticals and tobacco sales; establishing restrictions around where cannabis can be smoked and vaped in public; and establishing authority to further regulate advertising, labelling, and promotion of cannabis if required after federal regulations are established.

What this essentially means is that the province is preparing for enough oversight of the new market in order to run it similar to how alcohol and smoking cigarettes are controlled

“We are very supportive of the Alberta government for their announcement on private cannabis retail for our province. This is a responsible model that will boost our province’s economy, while keeping safety at the forefront. With Alberta’s strong entrepreneurial spirit, this retail model allows companies like ours to create hundreds, even thousands of jobs for Albertans. Not to mention, the competition created through private cannabis retail will allow our province to continue to combat the black market,” Jeff Mooij, owner of 420 Clinic said.

The province will release further details on drug-impaired driving, taxation and workplace safety as they come available.

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