Yukon's plans for legal pot still hazy, says opposition
'There are many important questions ... the government has yet to provide the answers it should have'
Yukon's opposition parties aren't too impressed with the territorial government's proposed framework for legal marijuana, announced on Monday.
Yukon Party MLA Brad Cathers says there are still "many unanswered questions."
"We see this is a case of rushed public policy, and there are many important questions — including as it relates to impaired driving enforcement — that the government has yet to provide the answers it should have," he said in the Legislative Assembly.
The territorial government has had little choice but to rush, though — the federal government has committed to making pot legal on July 1, and it's up to the provinces and territories to have legislation in place by then.
The framework announced on Monday offers a few specifics — for example, the legal age to have or use pot in Yukon will be 19, and the government will control distribution in the territory. Yukoners will be able to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis, and grow up to four marijuana plants per household.
The framework also says a licensing system will be developed for private retailers to sell pot.
But Cathers says the government's plan to monopolize distribution is so far ill-defined.
"The first question that comes to mind is, how?" Cathers asked. "Has the government come up with a plan for where it will store it, how it will manage it, and how it will distribute and transport?"
Cathers also says the government hasn't explained how marijuana will be taxed in Yukon, and how it will ensure that young people are protected from secondhand marijuana smoke at home.
NDP Leader Liz Hanson also has questions about the proposed legislation, including the plan to limit consumption to privately-owned residences.
She wonders what that means for people who use medical marijuana, but don't own a home.
"We would not want to see a situation where patients are not allowed to take medication they need because they live in a rental unit," she said.
Hanson also wants Yukon to ensure that there is good quality control on what's sold, "so pesticides, herbicides and other harmful chemicals don't find their way into products that will be sold here in the Yukon."
She's also asking the government to put measures in place to monitor the health impacts of legal pot, particularly with respect to mental health and young people.
The government is asking for public feedback on its proposed legislation until Dec. 20.
Hopes for private retail
The plan is prompting questions outside the Legislative Assembly.
William Huebschwerlen operates the Northern Hempisphere, a retail store selling cannabis paraphernalia in downtown Whitehorse. He's pleased that private retailers might get a piece of the action when pot becomes legal.
"Hopefully they will see that they need people like my little store here to help out with the sales and the movement of their product," he said.
"Everybody's talking about wanting to have stores, and wanting to be the dispensary, and how much money they're going to make on it."
One question he has though, is whether pot could be used anywhere outside of a privately-owned home. The framework legislation says nothing about restaurants, cafés, or other public places.
"Are we going to be able to sit down on Main Street, and smoke our herb on Main?" Huebschwerlen asked.
He said he's hoping to add a vape lounge to his business, because "there's going to have to be some type of smoking environment.
"It's like when they dropped the prohibition off alcohol, what did they have to do? They had to make drinking establishments."
With files from Philippe Morin