The Yukon government released the territory’s cannabis legalization framework today, with many elements that reflect the government’s self-professed “cautious approach” toward legalized marijuana.
The framework outlines a proposed legal age, a distribution and retail model, and possession, growing and consumption limits.
All represent a “starting point” from which the government’s eventual legislation will “evolve as we learn about the best approach for Yukon,” the framework reads.
“Our government is taking a cautious approach to the implementation of legalized cannabis,” according to the document, available on the government’s website.
“Our plan is to maximize local benefits while minimizing local harms.”
The proposed minimum age for Yukon residents to legally possess, consume and cultivate cannabis is 19.
While the federal government’s Cannabis Act allows legal cannabis activity for those 18 and older, 19 matches the Yukon’s age for liquor purchase.
Consumption of the drug would be limited to privately-owned residences and adjoining property with the permission of the owner.
Part of the Yukon legalization model’s stated mandate is to “allow adults who choose to consume cannabis to have reasonable access to purchase and consume it legally,” according to the framework.
However, this consumption regulation would leave renters severely limited in their ability to do so, if their landlord or building owner prohibits cannabis consumption in a rented unit.
As public consumption is not allowed in the framework as it currently stands, these individuals would have to seek out another – cannabis-friendly – private residence in which to consume or smoke it.
Alberta’s proposed legislation, for example, allows for cannabis smoking in public places where smoking tobacco is permitted.
The framework does say it will “provide for the potential to allow consumption in other spaces in the future.”
Ottawa has committed to a July 2018 deadline for cannabis legalization – no longer the first of the month, but some point in July – and so too has the territorial government.
“The Government of Yukon will ensure that Yukoners have legal access to cannabis upon federal legalization next year,” according to the framework.
It remains to be seen whether that July 2018 access means a brick and mortar, government-operated retail store in Whitehorse or a Yukon government e-commerce system.
Patricia Randell, the government’s director of cannabis implementation and education, told reporters at a news conference this morning that the government is looking at making both available to Yukoners at some point. However, a timeline for their operation has yet to be determined.
Justice Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee did confirm, however, that the first retail store will be located in Whitehorse, though its specific site hasn’t been finalized.
And it won’t be the government’s liquor store – according to the framework, the government has decided against selling alcohol and cannabis in the same location.
Co-locating the two substances is not a best practice, according to Laura Lang, a senior policy advisor with Health and Social Services.
The Yukon Liquor Corporation (YLC) still seems likely to be involved in the operation of a government cannabis retail store.
“Those decisions are still being made,” McPhee said.
She went on to note that the government is working closely with YHC “because they do have experience with intoxicants and with the importation and regulation and sale, so yes, that’s what we’re working on.”
The framework also provides for the possibility of government-licensed private retail stores.
Other proposed regulations include the public possession limit of 30 grams of dried cannabis, and permission for a household to grow up to four marijuana plants for personal use.
As provided for in federal legislation, the Yukon government has decided it will have the sole authority to import, transport or distribute recreational cannabis in the territory.
“This proposed approach provides government with the opportunity to control the supply chain and the price of cannabis, which will help reduce illicit activity,” the framework reads.
“It will also ensure the legitimacy and quality of cannabis for retail sale.
The Yukon government has not arrived at a price nor territorial taxation scheme for recreational cannabis.
The types of cannabis product it makes available will be determined by federal legislation.
Currently, Ottawa will include dried cannabis and oils, but not edibles in the July 2018 legalization.
The proposed framework largely matches the results of a government survey on cannabis legalization.
Thousands of Yukoners completed it, making it the largest government survey ever completed in the territory.
Setting the minimum age at 19 was the most popular age limit option among respondents.
A significant majority supported the 30-gram possession limit, and the four-plant household growing limit.
A slim majority – 51 per cent – favoured a hybrid retail model featuring public and private retail stores, while selling alcohol and cannabis in separate locations was the most popular option among respondents to the question of co-location.
Seventy-seven per cent of respondents agreed that people should be allowed to smoke cannabis on private property.
The framework does not reflect public preference in two areas: public consumption and distribution.
Among survey respondents, 57 per cent indicated that the public smoking of cannabis should be subject to the same restrictions as tobacco.
The most popular distribution model was government-licensed private distributors.
Under the framework, public smoking is not allowed, and the Yukon government will be the sole distributor of recreational cannabis.
The Yukon joins Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and New Brunswick, all of which have released comprehensive cannabis frameworks.
The government is accepting public feedback on the framework at email@example.com until Dec. 20.