“Cannabis Let’s Talk Alberta”
From left, Neil Harris, Keily Stetson, Carol Coleman, and Justin Thompson at the “Cannabis Let’s Talk Alberta” meeting in Vermilion on April 24. Photo Angela Mouly
Two sessions of the “Cannabis Let’s Talk Alberta” meeting were held at the Vermilion Regional Centre on April 24. Carol Coleman and Keily Stetson shared information and resources, and community members and representatives had the opportunity to openly discuss the new legislation and what they would like to see for Vermilion. According to Alberta.ca, the province aims to limit the illegal market for cannabis; keep cannabis out of the hands of children; protect public health; and promote safety on roads, in workplaces, and in public spaces. Cannabis retailers will have to be located 100 meters away from schools and provincial health care facilities. Legislation will only allow consumption of the leaf or bud portions of the plant; oils are currently not included. The Province of Alberta has released that upon legalization, the minimum age for cannabis purchase or possession will be 18 years of age. Minors caught with 5g, or less will face sanctions similar to underage possession of alcohol or tobacco, and for amounts over 5g would continue being subject to federal criminal charges. For adults, 30g will be the weight permitted for possession, and both in-store and online purchases. Adults can grow up to four plants per household pending landlord and tenant agreements or condo bylaws for growing and consumption. Pending these same arrangements, adults will be permitted to smoke, or vape cannabis at home or in some public places; but not in vehicles, any cannabis retail outlets, anywhere smoking or vaping tobacco is already prohibited, or in specific areas frequented by children including school and hospital properties and within five metres of skate parks, spray parks and playgrounds. Driving while impaired by cannabis will result in license suspensions and vehicle seizures, and those with a Graduated Driver’s License will have zero tolerance. Throughout the meetings, participants shared positive, negative or indifferent cannabis use experiences of themselves or people they knew. Some discussion included health benefits, health risks, ensuring comfort and respect in different scenarios including at home or in the yard, at work, campgrounds, etc. Many were able to understand better other perspectives surrounding cannabis. According to the Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines, Canada has among the highest cannabis use rates in the world and is common especially among adolescents and young adults. They have well documented immediate and long-term risks from cannabis use. With brain development not completed until the mid 20’s, they noted mental health and education problems associated with cannabis use in youth, and pulmonary-bronchial problems associated with smoking combusted cannabis. Noting that everyone is affected differently, they recommend people not drive for six hours after use. Their recommendations include that individuals with a predisposition for or a first-degree family member with psychosis and substance use disorders as well as pregnant women should refrain from using cannabis. At the end of the sessions, questionnaires were submitted voluntarily to be pooled across Alberta and Canada into one final document. In Alberta, Lloydminster Drug Strategy and Alberta Health Service’s Provincial Addiction Prevention team partnered together and will be submitting the area information to Health Canada and the University of Victoria’s Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research. Areas of responsibility following the federal legalization of cannabis, for municipalities, will include education, taxation, retail location and rules, public consumption, as well as land use and zoning. Councillor Pulyk mentioned the possibility after a municipal draft is made, that they may seek public opinion. Overall, attendees enjoyed learning more about the subject and look forward to more details as municipalities divulge what will come into place in the area.