Southern Alberta Newspapers
Details of how the retail side of cannabis regulation will be handled by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission were laid out during a public meeting on cannabis legalization.
Graham Wadsworth, senior manager, inspections south with the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission, spoke at the City’s Community Issues Committee recently in Council Chambers.
Wadsworth said the AGLC has a commitment keep cannabis out of the hands of children and youth; protect public health; promote safety on roads, in workplaces, and public spaces; and limiting the illegal cannabis network.
The AGLC is responsible for licencing the cannabis retail environment. The new regulations define the rules for retail in four areas: who can work in a retail store, who can operate a retail store, where they can be located, and how the stores will operate.
All licence applicants will be subject to vigorous background checks, including criminal record checks, business history, tax and financial information, and no history of integrity offences, violent crimes, or links to organized crime.
Wadsworth made it clear no licences would be issued to anyone with links to organized crime or those with a history of drug trafficking – although a previous record of minor cannabis possession would not automatically disqualify an applicant.
Licences will need to be renewed annually and background checks will occur every one to three years to ensure applicants are still qualified for licencing.
“This is a more stringent version of the background checks the AGLC currently perform on shareholders and managers of potential liquor retailers,” said Wadsworth. “It also includes many of the aspects of background checks for gaming operators.”
In terms of who can open a private retail operation, no single person, business, or organization can own more that 15 per cent of retail licences across the province. There will be no limit to the number of licences issued, however, and the government will review the process every five years.
“We took an estimate on what to anticipate with respect to applicants in the first year and licences we would issue in the first year,” Wadsworth said. “The number we came up with was 250.”
This means no single applicant would be able to control more than 37 licences province-wide.
In terms of who can work in a private retail operation, regulations will be that the employee must be over 18, have taken mandatory training, and will have passed a criminal background check.The AGLC will keep a database of Qualified Cannabis Workers. Retailers will only be able to higher QCWs.
“Serious criminal offences and links to organized crime will prohibit in a cannabis retail location,” said Wadsworth.
Just as with licence applications, minor drug offences will not automatically disqualify a potential QCW.
Stores cannot be located within 100 metres from schools or hospitals, which represents a buffer of about one city block. Municipalities will be able to create greater setback distances and/or additional uses such as liquor stores or other cannabis stores.
There is currently no AGLC setback requirement for liquor stores – though municipalities may introduce requirements if they feel it is needed.
“Municipalities can apply for an easement or a variance, and the commission will grant variances to municipalities,” said Wadsworth, noting the variances will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
Cannabis retail stores will only allowed to be open between 10 a.m. and 2 a.m., the same as liquor stores – though again, municipalities may reserve the right to further limit hours.
There will be a limit of 30 grams per transaction, aligning with the legal public possession limit for cannabis.
There will be a security requirement for retail cannabis operations, including monitored alarms and cameras and limits on the amount of cannabis which can be kept on site. There will be no use or consumption permitted on site.
The AGLC will be operating an online e-commerce business to purchase cannabis. There will be no private licences for online sale issued.