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Jurisdiction and the Role of Municipalities

The Cannabis Act came into force on October 17, 2018. Provinces and territories are responsible for determining how cannabis is distributed and sold within their jurisdictions.

They set rules around:

  • how cannabis can be sold;
  • where stores may be located;
  • how stores must be operated; and
  • who is allowed to sell cannabis.

Provinces and territories also have the flexibility to set added restrictions, including:

  • lowering possession limits;
  • increasing the minimum age;
  • restricting where cannabis may be used in public; and
  • setting added requirements on personal cultivation

Legalization in Alberta

The Government of Alberta has identified four policy priorities regarding cannabis.  A snapshot of these policies and some of the measures being used to support them is below:

  1. Keeping cannabis out of the hands of children
    1. Banning public use near areas frequented by children
    2. Zero tolerance approach to possession by those under 18 years of age
  2. Protecting public health
    1. Developing public awareness campaigns about the risk of cannabis use
    2. Restricting consumption of cannabis in public spaces
  3. Promoting safety on roads, in workplaces, and in public spaces
    1. Public education and awareness
    2. Training and equipment for law enforcement
  4. Limiting the illegal market for cannabis
    1. Public education about the risk of purchasing on the illicit market
    2. Establishing a distribution system with government oversight

For more information on Provincial policy, visit Alberta’s Cannabis Legalization webpage.

The Role of Municipalities

Individual municipalities may also pass bylaws to regulate the use of cannabis locally.

The Government of Alberta cannabis webpage cites Municipalities as having jurisdiction on the following elements of cannabis legalization:

  • Education
    • Municipalities are responsible for educating the public on local guidelines and bylaws.
  • Taxation
    • Under current Alberta legislation, cannabis-producing facilities meet the farming operations definition.  Buildings used for growing, warehousing and storing of raw product are treated the same as farm buildings and any portion of buildings that have other uses, such as processing or a commercial/business, are fully assessable and taxable.
  • Retail locations and rules
    • A 100-metre buffer for stores from schools and provincial health-care facilities is required. However, municipalities have the ability to adjust these buffer zones or add additional ones to best suit their communities’ needs
    • Standard store hours are set between 10 a.m. and 2 a.m. (the same as liquor stores);  municipalities are able to adjust these hours.
    • Where applicable, municipalities will also be responsible for granting development approvals and/or business licences to prospective cannabis retailers.
  • Public consumption
    • Using existing authorities (i.e. bylaws), municipalities may decide to place further restrictions on where cannabis may be consumed in public spaces within their community.
  • Land use/zoning
    • Municipalities will continue to have the authority to set the development rules for new cannabis developments in their existing land use bylaws, and to make decisions on development applications relating to cannabis retail and production locations.
    • Municipalities will now also be responsible for ensuring their land use bylaws are consistent with Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Regulation requirements for cannabis retail locations.

AUMA has provided more detailed analysis on municipal regulations surrounding cannabis legalization in their Cannabis Legal Resource and Toolkit.