Strathcona County's approach to cannabis legalization
The Government of Canada has introduced legislation to legalize cannabis. There will be new federal, provincial and municipal processes for cannabis production, sale and consumption.
The legalization of cannabis will have many impacts. Strathcona County is reviewing federal and provincial direction and legislation as it becomes available, to help manage the legalization of cannabis in the best interest of our community.
What is cannabis?
Cannabis refers to products made from the leaves, flowers and resins of the cannabis plant. Other names for cannabis include marijuana or pot. Cannabis users smoke, vaporize, or add cannabis to food or drinks.
Today, it is only legal to use cannabis with a medical prescription. The Government of Canada’s plans to legalize cannabis (expected in July 2018) will allow cannabis to be used for recreational purposes.
While the legalization of cannabis is a federal decision, provinces and municipalities each have areas of responsibility.
Strathcona County role
The federal and provincial governments are determining the roles and responsibilities of municipalities in cannabis legalization.
Municipalities, including Strathcona County, still require details and further clarification from the federal and provincial government, in areas such as public health and education, law enforcement, taxation revenue distribution and facility access. Strathcona County may need to create or change various services, policies and bylaws to accommodate legalization.
Strathcona County is investigating how to best manage the legalization of cannabis in the best interests of our community.
Sharing information will be an important part of this process and community feedback will help inform Strathcona County’s decision making around land use regulations and enforcement.
Strathcona County’s next steps include:
- Gather information, including understanding how Alberta’s framework will be applied at the municipal level.
- Draft a County-focused bylaw framework once the final draft federal and provincial legislation is in place to legalize recreational cannabis (including defining the level of control municipalities will have).
- Review bylaws that will need to be amended to accommodate the legalization of cannabis including, by not limited to, the Land Use Bylaw and the Parks Bylaw.
Strathcona County is investigating its role in:
- Establishing cannabis retail stores
- Monitoring cannabis use in public
- Educating the public on legal cannabis use
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Strathcona County Business
- Strathcona County is reviewing its Land Use Bylaw to address and place land use regulations on licensed cannabis growing, production, distribution and processing facilities, including consumption, to reflect changes in Federal regulations.
- Over the next coming months, Strathcona County will engage stakeholders and coordinate with provincial and federal governments before implementing further Land Use Bylaw changes.
- All businesses must first obtain a development permit before operating in Strathcona County. We are currently reviewing our Land Use Bylaw.
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Growing and processing medical cannabis
- All businesses must first obtain a development permit before operating in Strathcona County.
- Applicants must apply to the federal government for a licence and receive all the necessary approvals to become a licensed producer for medical purposes.
- On January 23, 2018, the Land Use Bylaw 6-2015 was amended to add a definition for "cannabis production facility".
- "Cannabis production facility" has been added to the list of discretionary uses in IM - medium industrial zoning district; and to AG - agricultural zoning district.
- As a discretionary use, the Development Authority has the opportunity to consider if what is being proposed is compatible and an appropriate scale of development on a site by site basis as well as taking into consideration feedback from adjacent landowners.
The Government of Alberta is deciding how it will adapt to the federal legislation. Here is a summary of provincial actions to date:
- Albertans shared their feedback on cannabis legalization in Alberta through public engagement in 2017.
- Alberta’s framework and legislation outlines legal and responsible use of cannabis by Albertans. Alberta’s plan includes possession and consumption limitations, workplace safety and distribution (both retail and wholesale).
- Alberta’s proposed Bill 26 to provides authority for the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission to provide oversight and compliance functions, as well as manage the distribution of cannabis; carry out public online sales and to license privately owned and operated cannabis stores; establish provincial offences related to youth possession, public consumption and consumption of cannabis in vehicles.
- Alberta passed Bill 29 to update impaired driving offences and sanctions to include drug-impaired driving.
- Visit the Government of Alberta website for more information on Alberta’s approach to Cannabis legalization.
The Government of Canada is responsible for cannabis production, sale, possession and medical cannabis regulations.
- The proposed federal bill (Bill C-45) regulates cannabis and sets the standards for:
- Health and safety
- Illegal or criminal actions
- Provincial responsibility for cannabis regulation
- Visit the Government of Canada website for more information on the federal legalization and regulation of cannabis.
Purchasing cannabis and cannabis retail locations
Once federal legislation comes into effect, Albertans will have two options for purchasing recreational cannabis:
- Privately run retail stores
- Provincial government-operated online sales
Physical retail locations will be subject to provincial government regulations and the terms of licenses granted by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission, including the aforementioned details. AGLC begins accepting applications for cannabis retail licenses on March 6, 2018.
Details on licensing and establishing a cannabis retail operation are now available from the provincial government.
Online sales and home delivery will be operated by the provincial government. This is in response to concerns raised by Albertans about the need for strict control over age verification processes during the initial sale and at time of delivery. It will also give Albertans confidence in their purchases, as there will be a single online source for recreational cannabis.
Though cannabis cafes and lounges will not be permitted, the updated provincial legislation gives the authority to regulate these forms of establishments should government decide to allow them at a later date. Further information is available on Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission website.
Please note: details on municipal roles are still being worked out at the provincial and federal level. Information will be updated on this website, as it becomes available.