What are the Laws on Cannabis in Alberta? (Part 1)

What are the Laws on Cannabis in Alberta? (Part 1)

By Greg Dunn

On Oct. 17, 2018, marijuana became a legal product in Canada when the Cannabis Act came into force. Exactly a year later the sale of edible cannabis, cannabis extracts and cannabis topicals also became legal in Canada. However, there is a myriad of laws governing the sale, possession, production and distribution of cannabis products, with legislation varying from province to province. Here is what you need to know about cannabis in Alberta.

Anyone 18 and Over May Buy and Use Cannabis

Alberta is the only province in Canada that allows anyone 18 or older to buy or grow cannabis (in the rest of the country you have to be 19). The  Alberta government notes that 18 is also the minimum age for purchasing and consuming alcohol and tobacco and that 18 was the federal government’s proposed minimum age for legal cannabis when it was first legalized.

You Have to Buy it From Licensed Stores …

Provincially sanctioned retailers are the only stores that can legally sell cannabis. Alberta has held the top position in terms of retail cannabis stores since the product was legalized, with 65 stores open on Oct. 17, 2018. As of October 2021, there were 693 cannabis retailers listed in the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC) database.

Cannabis buyers in Alberta who appear to be under 25 must show government identification. Minors are not allowed to buy cannabis or be on licensed premises, even if accompanied by an adult. 

The staff who work at these stores must be at least 18 years of age, undergo a background check and complete mandatory training. There are rules about where private cannabis stores can be located, with a 100-metre buffer between these retailers and schools. Provincial municipalities can set buffers that suit their communities through local bylaws.

Cannabis retailers cannot sell alcohol, tobacco or pharmaceuticals. They may be open from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m., though most close at 11 p.m. or sooner, and they are subject to extensive security requirements. 

… or Buy From Alberta Cannabis Online

The only legal alternative to sanctioned cannabis stores is Alberta Cannabis, the province’s official online retailer. You can order any of the 1,400 legal cannabis products and have them delivered to your door. But first, you need to create an account and verify that you are 18 years or older. Most people are verified through Equifax, a credit reporting agency, though a government document states this is done “to confirm your age only. Your credit is not affected in any way.” If that is not successful, you also have the option to age-verify in person at a Canada Post location

Once your age is verified, deliveries can be made to addresses within Alberta through Canada Post or Purolator for $4.95 per order. Once the order arrives, someone 18 years or older must show identification and sign for it. 

You Can Buy 30 Grams of Cannabis Each Visit

Across Canada, federal law states you can buy up to 30 g of dried cannabis (or an equivalent amount in extract, edible or topical form) in a single purchase, which is also the legal public possession limit in Alberta. According to an AGLC document,  one gram of dried cannabis is equivalent to:

  • 5 g of fresh cannabis

  • 15 g of edible product

  • 70 g of liquid product

  • 0.25 g of concentrates (solid or liquid)

  • one cannabis plant seed

Where You Can Consume Cannabis in Alberta

Albertans are allowed to consume cannabis in their homes and in some public spaces. Every municipality has the power to create additional restrictions on public use, so familiarize yourself with the local rules in your area before indulging.

Across the province, the public smoking or vaping of cannabis is prohibited in the same places as tobacco is restricted, plus:

  • on any hospital property, school property or childcare facility property

  • in areas close to a playground, sports field, zoo, outdoor theatre or  an outdoor pool or splash pad.

Festivals and events in Alberta can apply for permission to create a designated cannabis consumption area, similar to beer gardens. These will be open air, fenced-off zones restricted to those over the age of 18.

Cannabis Can Never be Consumed in Motor Vehicles

Cannabis use is never permitted in any motor vehicle in Alberta with the exception of those being used as temporary residences, such as parked RVs. If you drive – and this applies to all motorized vehicles including snowmobiles, ATVs, motorcycles, boats and airplanes – while high on cannabis you will face the same consequences as someone impaired by alcohol.

Penalties include a maximum $1,000 fine for motorists found to have two nanograms per millilitre but less than five ng/ml of THC (the psychoactive compound in cannabis) in their system.

If you have either more than five ng/ml of THC or a combination of 2.5 ng/ml and 50 mg/100 ml or more of alcohol, a first offence is a minimum $1,000 fine, a second offence would result in a mandatory 30 days of imprisonment, and a third offence could put you in jail for 120 days.

You can transport cannabis in a vehicle as long as it is secured in closed packaging but it ‘can't be within reach of anyone in a vehicle,” according to AGLC information.

The laws around cannabis are relatively new. Let the experienced lawyers at Dunn & Associates work to help you build your best defence if you are charged with any cannabis-related offence. If you have any questions or would like to speak to a lawyer, call us at 403-233-0443.

  • Part two of The Laws Around Cannabis in Alberta will look at issues such as possession and growing your own, plus the rules around medical marijuana and cannabis in condos and rentals.

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Drug Offences