On February 16, 2018, the provincial government announced the retail regulations for Alberta’s Cannabis Framework. These regulations outline key details about the operation of retail cannabis stores such as who can own them, where they can be located and what their hours of operation can be. Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, Kathleen Ganley, emphasized that public safety is the Province’s focus and main concern in enacting these regulations, specifically, keeping cannabis out of the hands of children, preventing impaired driving and limiting the illegal market.

Of note, while the widely-understood date for the legalization of cannabis in Canada has been slated for July 1, 2018, the federal government has indicated that a vote on the third reading of the bill will not take place before June 7, 2018. Upon receiving royal assent, the federal government has indicated it will take 8-12 weeks for provincial and municipal governments to get their regulations and by-laws in place. Therefore, while Alberta has released its retail regulations, Canadians should not expect legal cannabis until August or September 2018.

Details of the Regulations

The retail regulations are in place to ensure that only legitimate businesses are operating in Alberta’s legal cannabis market. As Minister Ganley has noted, the government wants to "make sure the illegal market doesn't seep into the legal one". As such, the province has legislated the following:

  • Mandatory background checks for retail licence applicants;
  • Mandatory training and background checks for all retail employees;
  • One person, group or organization cannot hold more than 15% of licences in Alberta;
  • A 100-metre buffer zone between stores and neighbouring schools and provincial health-care facilities. Of note, municipalities can adjust these buffer zones or add additional ones as needed;
  • Legal age for consumption and purchase of cannabis is 18 years old, and no minors are allowed into a cannabis retail store, even if accompanied by an adult;
  • No co-location of cannabis sales with alcohol, pharmaceuticals or tobacco sales;
  • Store hours set between 10 a.m. and 2 a.m., the same as liquor stores, with municipalities able to adjust these hours; and
  • Mandatory security measures in stores.

When can business owners apply for licensing?

All potential retailers must apply for a license from the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (“AGLC”). The province has expressed that it expects to license 250 retailers in Alberta in the first year of legalization. Critically, one person, group or organization cannot hold more than 15% of licences in Alberta. Applications will not be accepted until March 6, 2018 and, thereafter, all applicants will have to undergo mandatory background checks, as will employees of cannabis retail stores.

As Alberta’s key regulator of the province’s liquor and gaming industries, the AGLC will be the body overseeing the distribution, compliance and enforcement of Alberta’s cannabis retail system. They will have the power to set strict regulatory guidelines and licence requirements for private cannabis retailers.

You can learn more about the Regulations in the meantime

On Thursday, February 22, 2018, the Alberta Cannabis Secretariat and the AGLC will be holding a conference call from 1:30-3:30 pm to provide an overview of the retail regulations, the licensing process and to answer questions. You can preregister for the call at www.converso.co/alberta.

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