Yukon presents draft plan for regulating legal marijuana
Territorial government lays out proposed rules, asks for public comment
Yukoners shouldn't expect to be sparking up a joint anywhere in public this summer, even after cannabis becomes legal. The Yukon government wants them to keep the weed at home.
The government on Thursday offered more details about how marijuana will be legally sold and regulated in the territory, starting later this year. Officials presented a summary of its draft Cannabis Control and Regulation Act, to be tabled in the Legislature later this winter.
It follows a framework document presented in November, that laid out some basic rules about how and where pot can be sold, grown or consumed, and by whom.
The new proposed legislation would restrict cannabis consumption to a "dwelling house" or the adjoining property, and the pot must have been purchased from a legal retailer. Condominium owners however, could be banned from using it if a majority of owners in their building passed a prohibition bylaw.
Apartment landlords, as property owners, will be able to decide whether tenants can consume in their units.
"We're allowing for owners to determine the consumption that they would be allowing," said Patricia Randell, director of cannabis implementation and education with Yukon's department of justice.
Public places — including day care and day home facilities, whether or not children are present — would be off-limits for smoking or vaping. Being intoxicated by cannabis in a public place would also be a no-no, as it is with alcohol.
It would also be illegal to have marijuana in a vehicle, unless it is in a "closed container", inaccessible to the people in the vehicle.
"I'm not sure an ashtray for example, in a car, with the cannabis in the ashtray, is a sealed container," said Al Lucier with the justice department. "The accessibility of it, to both passenger and/or driver — that will be the issue."
Prioritizing public health
Health Minister Pauline Frost said the legislation prioritizes public health, especially with respect to youth.
"We believe that allowing the consumption of cannabis — smoking in particular — on our streets and in our parks is not in the best interest of the health and well-being of young people," she said.
The government had already announced a legal age of 19 years to buy, grow or use cannabis. Proposed federal legislation would set a minimum age of 18, Frost said.
The new draft legislation also lays out a licensing process for private retailers, although regulations for private retail sales are still being developed. Initially, the territorial government will monopolize sales through the Yukon Liquor Corporation. It will control all importing of cannabis to Yukon, as well as warehousing and distributing it to retailers.
Under the proposed Act, a five-member, government-appointed Cannabis Legislation Board would be set up to review applications from private retailers and grant licences for retail sales. The independent board would be empowered to issue, refuse or cancel retail licences, and hold hearings "where there is interest or concern" about an application.
The board would consider a variety of things when considering an application, such as:
- the population in the area
- economic benefits
- whether the premises are sanitary and secure
- the "financial character and legal history of the applicant"
Initially, though, the only place to legally buy marijuana in Yukon will be from a government-run retail store, or through online sales. No site has yet been selected for the government store, though the City of Whitehorse has drafted a zoning by-law to restrict marijuana sales to the Marwell area.
Yukoners over the age of 19 will be allowed to grow up to four marijuana plants per dwelling.
The territorial government is under a deadline to have its marijuana legislation in place. The federal government plans to make cannabis legal on July 1.
That means the territorial government will table its legislation soon after the spring sitting begins in the Legislative Assembly, on Mar. 1.
In the meantime, it's asking Yukoners to again weigh in. It's accepting public comments on the draft legislation until Feb. 12.
With files from Dave Croft