What legal recreational cannabis could look like in the Yukon come this summer has become a little less hazy.
The territorial government presented a summary of its proposed legislation for the Cannabis Control and Regulation Act at a news conference Thursday afternoon.
“The legislation is intended to provide for legal, controlled access to cannabis that displaces illegal and criminal activity and to prioritize public health and harm reduction,” said Community Services Minister John Streicker, who will be responsible for the act once it is passed.
While it’s planned that Yukoners aged 19 and older will be able to legally purchase, possess, cultivate and consume cannabis sometime this July, don’t expect to be inundated with the distinct skunky aroma in public spaces.
The government is proposing limiting cannabis consumption to private residences and yards.
Smoking and vaping the substance will be prohibited in group living facilities along with licensed child care homes like daycares and pre-schools, whether or not a child is present.
It will also not be allowed in the common areas of buildings with multiple units, including hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts.
Adults who live in nursing homes or specialized health care facilities will only be allowed to consume cannabis in designated areas.
And condominiums with applicable bylaws and landlords will also be able to legally prohibit some forms of consumption, similar to tobacco.
“In most cases, landlords are in a position to restrict activities like that that have an impact upon their property,” explained Lesley McCullough, the deputy minister of Justice.
“Where they have a right to make such a limitation, they can choose to do so and exercise it, but it’s very much a case-by-case situation in that respect.”
Keeping with the legal framework released in November 2017, the government also plans to retain the sole authority to import, warehouse, transport and distribute recreational cannabis with the Yukon Liquor Corp. functioning as the distributor corporation.
This means the government will set the price and determine the varieties and brands of the plant more commonly known by colourful monikers including ganja, kush, herb and chronic, that will be available for sale.
“As we think about pricing, we will be thinking about our goals; harm reduction and displacing the illicit trade,” said Streicker.
Potential pricing and the percentage of profits that will go toward municipalities is still under consideration, he noted.
At first, there will only be one retail cannabis store in the territory, anticipated for a location somewhere in the Marwell industrial area of Whitehorse.
But those outside the city looking to get their hands on the “devil’s lettuce” won’t be left out.
They can purchase cannabis from the distributor corporation online. To prevent it from getting in the hands of youth, purchasers must verify their identity and age to an agent upon delivery.
“It’s based on a system that’s occurred for quite a long time in Ontario with respect to mail order alcohol, and it’s been quite effective there with respect to servicing communities,” explained Justice Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee.
The proposed act also makes way for future regulations that will allow for private retailers to sell cannabis, similar to the sale of alcohol at off-sales outlets.
Details on what those regulations may include, like siting restrictions, are still under review.
When that time comes, the government proposes a licensing process involving the distributor corporation and a Cannabis Licensing Board, for those interested in
becoming commercial retailers.
This board will be made up of five members appointed by the Yukon government for three year terms. It will have the authority to issue, refuse, cancel and suspend licences.
When reviewing licence applications, the board will consider the number and type of licences already in an area, as well as population, economic benefits and public views.
For commercial purposes, only producers licensed under the federal act may grow cannabis.
But for personal use, a maximum of four plants may be permitted at any one dwelling house out of public sight.
And when it comes to possession in public, it will be limited to 30 grams of dried cannabis flowers, also known as marijuana, or equivalent forms of the substance.
According to schedule 3 of the federal Cannabis Act, 30 grams of marijuana are equal to 150 grams of fresh cannabis, 2,100 grams of a liquid product like oil and 30 cannabis plant seeds.
Possession in a vehicle will be prohibited unless it is in a closed container and inaccessible to all people in the vehicle.
And anyone in possession of cannabis must also take reasonable measures to ensure young people cannot access it.
Pauline Frost, the minister of Health and Social Services, noted that the proposed legislation, which centres on the government’s “cautious approach”, focuses on protecting youth and safety.
“We are focusing on protecting youth from the negative health effects associated with cannabis consumption,” Frost said.
She said the government is engaging with youth across the territory and plans to launch an ongoing health and education campaign targeted at youth and their families.
“We want to ensure that our young people know about the risks that come with using cannabis and that they can make educated, informed decisions about when if ever they choose to use cannabis.”
Finally, the draft summary details the Yukon government’s plan for enforcement.
It says penalties for breaching the act will depend on the seriousness of the offence.
There is the expectation that offences like the large sale of cannabis without a licence will incur significant penalties while offences like public consumption by an adult will carry a standard fine.
If a person is convicted of an offence, any cannabis seized will be forfeited to the Yukon government.
And, similar to alcohol, those intoxicated in public can be taken into custody by a peace officer instead of being charged.
“This is really a safety protection section and not a punitive section in any way,” explained Al Lucier, an assistant deputy Justice minister and a former RCMP member in the Yukon.
“It gives way to sort of the officer’s ability to give the protection to the public and to that individual if they’re showing gross intoxication so as they’re not going to have a danger of falling down in a snow bank at 40 below.”
The government also notes that at the federal level, the Liberals are proposing changes to the Criminal Code.
The territory’s proposed legislation is in anticipation of the Trudeau government’s promise to pass federal legislation legalizing cannabis sometime this July. The
Canada Day implementation date has been scrapped.
The Yukon act has to be tabled within the first five days of the start of the 2018 spring sitting of the legislature, which will begin March 1.
“I want to stress that the legislation is still being drafted, and we are looking forward to hearing again from Yukoners on their views on this proposed legislation,” said McPhee.
The Yukon Party has said they plan on carefully reviewing the summary, focusing on supporting the private sector, taxation and enforcement provisions.
More information on the proposed legislation is available at engage yukon.ca/en/2017/cannabis-legalization and the government is accepting feedback via email at firstname.lastname@example.org until February 12.