What are the Laws on Cannabis in Alberta? (Part 2)
This is the second in a series about legislation that affects cannabis users in Alberta.
By Greg Dunn
Two years ago, Canadians were given the right to legally buy and grow their own marijuana plants, as long as they follow rules set down by federal, provincial and municipal governments under the Cannabis Act. Governments use the term “cannabis” to describe cannabinoid products in general, as opposed to “marijuana” (which only describes the plant).
You Can Grow Your Own Cannabis, Within Limits
Like other Canadians, Albertans are able to purchase marijuana seeds from provincially licensed retailers and grow up to four plants per household (not four plants per person in that household). Live plants are not available for sale.
If you rent or live in a condo or multi-family dwelling you may not be allowed to grow cannabis in your home. It all depends on your rental agreement or condominium bylaws, as condo owners or landlords can forbid the growing of marijuana plants on their property.
You can grow cannabis in your yard or garden in Alberta, but it has to be in a secure area that passersby cannot access or see. The location you choose must be at your own residence and you can't grow at more than one dwelling at a time.
Marijuana plants also cannot be grown in any area of a dwelling authorized to operate as a community care facility or to provide child-care services.
The federal government provides these tips about recreational growing.
- Ensure all plants are secure and that other people, including children, can't reach them.
- Consider installing a tall fence with a locking gate or alarm system to keep outdoor growing areas secure.
- If growing inside, ensure there is enough ventilation to remove excess moisture and humidity, preventing mould build-up.
- Seek the help of a licensed professional if making any changes to your home's electrical system.
- Store cannabis in a safe location secured with a lock.
If you want to grow cannabis to sell to others, you need to be licensed by Health Canada.
The Rules Around Medical Cannabis in Alberta
Across the province, the consumption of recreational cannabis in any form (smoking, vaping or edibles) is prohibited in public places.
But in Calgary, the consumption of medically prescribed cannabis is allowed in all public areas as long as you don’t smoke it or vape it, according to city information. Allowable consumption methods include edibles, caplets, tinctures or sprays, or the application of oils or creams.
Medical marijuana users in Edmonton do not enjoy the same exemption, as a city document states: “Whether you are smoking cannabis for recreational or for medical purposes, everyone is expected to respect the same rules for where you can smoke.”
Across the province, medical cannabis users must present proof to a police officer, city bylaw officer or peace officer that the cannabis is medical. They must also carry documents that show they are legally allowed to possess more than 30 grams in public.
Under federal legislation, medical marijuana must be authorized by a health-care provider. In Alberta, medical marijuana users must register with a licensed seller to make purchases or they can buy it online through Alberta Cannabis, the province’s official online retailer.
They can also register with Health Canada to grow marijuana for medical purposes, or they can designate someone else to produce it for them. There is a limit on the number of plants that may be grown and the amount of dried marijuana that can be stored, based on a formula that takes into account:
- how much they need, as determined by their health-care practitioner;
- the average yield of a plant under certain growing conditions, such as indoor or outdoor growing; and
- the number of growth cycles expected in a year.
What Happens if I’m Under 18 and Caught with Cannabis?
In Alberta, youth between 12 years and 17 years cannot possess, distribute or produce cannabis. Those who break this law can be charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The maximum length of youth sentences ranges from two to 10 years, depending upon whether the youth is a first-time offender, the seriousness of the crime and other sentencing principles listed in the Act.
Generally speaking, a youth found with five grams or less of dried cannabis will not be charged, but the drug will be seized and their parents or guardians notified.
Under the Cannabis Act, it is illegal for an adult to give or sell cannabis to anyone under 18, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.
Cannabis Use in Alberta Provincial Parks
Anyone 18 or older can consume cannabis on their registered campsites (including in RVs being used as a temporary residence in a registered campsite) and in public areas where tobacco is permitted.
It cannot be consumed if you are in a motorized vehicle in the park or in areas where smoking is not allowed. Those include within five metres of public washrooms, playgrounds, amphitheatres or swimming pools.
The Popularity of Cannabis in Alberta
According to a provincial government document, a 2017 study found that 8.9 per cent of Albertans (370,000) had used cannabis within the past 12 months, compared to a national average of 10.5 per cent. It then adds this important caveat: “Since cannabis was not legal outside of the medical system, it’s likely the statistics were underestimated.
According to another government document, Alberta has the highest number of legal cannabis stores in Canada. From October 2018 to October 2020, total sales in these outlets grew from $5.7 million to $56.6 million, a 893 per cent growth.
If You Have Been Charged, Give us a Call
The laws around cannabis can be confusing, since various levels of government set the rules in different areas. If you are charged with any cannabis-related offence, let the experienced lawyers at Dunn & Associates work to help with your defence. If you have any questions or would like to speak to a lawyer, call us at 403-233-0443.