First, a quick constitutional lesson on who is responsible for what regarding cannabis:
|Government||Area of Responsibility|
|Federal (Canada)||Criminal – Sets industry-wide rules and standards, like minimum age (18), possession amounts, etc. Creation of criminal offenses for violation of the standards.|
|Provincial (Alberta)||Regulation – Can place additional restrictions like increasing minimum age, restricting amount you can possess, and where you can buy or use cannabis. Can’t override federal standards (for example, can increase minimum age, but not lower it).|
|Municipal (Calgary)||Permitting – Can’t interfere with either the Federal standards or Provincial regulations. Can set zoning, permitting and licensing of businesses, creation of reasonable no-smoking zones, etc.|
The Federal Cannabis Act is expected to become law no later than July, 2018. This act provides the basic minimum rules that Alberta and Calgary have to work with.
On October 4, 2017, the Alberta government released the Alberta Cannabis Framework. Calgary now has the necessary information to be able to create it’s own framework based on the Cannabis Act and the Alberta Cannabis Framework. This framework needs to be in place and ready to go before July, 2018. It will therefore be one of the new City Council’s first jobs to create one as quickly as possible.
Calgary has a framework for Medical Marijuana Counselling in Calgary, but that’s all we have in place so far. There is a lot of work to do. The City has received reports from Administration related to the Cannabis Act and Framework in Nov 2016, May 2017, and July 2017. There is no report yet on the newly released provincial framework.
I support the safe and regulated usage of cannabis within the Federal and Provincial frameworks and will work diligently to make sure Calgary puts a framework in place that meets both the letter and intent of the law. It is clear that the primary concern of Federal regulations are to protect children and youth while promoting freedoms for adults, and the primary concern of the Provincial framework to promote public safety. I find myself in complete agreement with these positions.
Cities have the extremely critical role of creating local rules on how people acquire and use cannabis. There are many issues related to this:
- Who should distribute cannabis – pharmacies, liquor stores, or government stores? Why not farmers markets?
- What interactions can be expected with nearby First Nations reservations, who will have different rules than Calgary?
- Should vaping be considered different than smoking as far as non-smoking areas are concerned?
- Should cannabis edibles be available in different places than non-edibles, such as a grocery store or pharmacy?
- How do the police test for THC levels for impaired driving charges? What do these tests cost and what is the best choice?
- How much will public education cost, and what venues should provide it? Should we teach cannabis safety in schools? Would that encourage it’s usage among the underaged? Is education on this topic a municipal responsibility at all?
- What, if any, tax will be on cannabis? Who collects it? Who is it distributed to and in what percentage?
- So we need special zoning for cannabis-related sales? If so, what should it be?
Most of these questions require input from residents of Calgary. My action plan is:
- Launch an education program to address misconceptions and ensure people can make an informed decision.
- Create a series of recommendations based on the Federal and Provincial frameworks, as well by working together with other municipalities
- Engage with Calgarians about what they think. Make sure they can have a real effect on the recommendations. Engagement is a two-way street.
- Create a final draft, then engage with and educate Calgarians on it. No one should be surprised by anything in the draft by this point.
- Implement the rules.
- Monitor the results, and make adjustments as necessary.