NEWS
03/27/2017 19:42 EDT | Updated 03/28/2018 01:12 EDT

Alberta government and marijuana growers await Ottawa's legalization plan

Marijuana will be legal in Canada next summer and the Alberta government is preparing to get to work on its own legislation on pricing and age restrictions.

On July 1, 2018, Ottawa will legalize the use of marijuana for people 18 years and older, but the provinces will have the option of raising the age limit if they choose to. Provinces will also be able to decide how cannabis is sold and distributed.

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On Monday, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said the province is waiting on legislation from the federal government next month before making decisions for Alberta.

"As we go forward, we'll be sure to be engaging with and consulting with Albertans about how best to do this in a way that preserves public safety, preserves health and protects our young people," Notley said.

Meanwhile, Aurora Cannabis is constructing the world's largest pot growing facility near the Edmonton International Airport. The company currently grows medical marijuana near Cremona in southern Alberta. The company's executive vice president, Cam Battley says a concrete legalization date is good news for the industry.

Battley said the company will grow recreational marijuana when it's legalized, but stressed its priority will continue to be their medicinal product

"We're seen as having the most successful and well-considered medical cannabis system in the world, and now we're moving forward and we've got to set up a workable and successful consumer cannabis regime," said Battley. "The world will be watching and emulating us if we get this right and I'm confident we will."

Retail vs. Medical

Aaron Bott worked in an Edmonton dispensary before it was shut down by police in 2015. He and three of his family members were charged with possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking, but the charges were dropped in December.

He's been pushing for cannabis legalization for close to 15 years.

"It's been a slow mule but hopefully the government will have enough resources from stakeholders that they can make an educated decision on regulations for cannabis," said Bott.

His main concern is that retail marijuana may overshadow medical use and that low-income patients may have a hard time affording it.

"Once cannabis is recreationalized then there's no need for medical use of it until Health Canada recognizes it as a medicine and patients can get it covered under their medical plans," said Bott.

He says he'll consider opening up a shop again once legalization happens, but he wants to stay focused on medical marijuana use.

"Get it out to the people who really need it, like the geriatric system. These older patients that are, in my opinion, being killed on chemo when they could try a plant instead and have a better quality of life."

Travis.mcewan@cbc.ca

@Travismcewancbc