Canada: Cannabis Regulation In Canada's Territories

Canada's plans for cannabis legalization are slowly rolling into focus. While many of the details of the regulatory framework are still under review, it is clear that the approach to regulation taken by the Provinces and Territories is mixed and diverse. The North is unique and the vast area of the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut coupled with a relatively small population poses challenges for the regulation, production, and distribution of cannabis in the Territories. 

The Cannabis Act will operate by providing Canada's Provinces and Territories the power to further regulate how legalized cannabis will be produced and sold, where it may be consumed, and will provide the option to increase the federal minimum age of 18 for cannabis purchase, use, and the growth of personal plants. 

Additionally, each Province and Territory has been tasked with the goals of public education and awareness on health risks (including drug-impaired driving), and workplace safety relating to cannabis impairment.

To this date, every Territory has released draft legislation to this effect, except Nunavut, despite the fact that Government of Nunavut has acknowledged that recreational cannabis use is "extremely popular" in this Territory. 

Overall, the approach to cannabis legalization in the Territories has been that only fresh or dried cannabis, cannabis oil, or seeds (as opposed to edibles and concentrates,) will be sold until further changes are made to the federal laws. The Territories plan to implement the minimum age of 19 to purchase and possess cannabis, in addition to the Federal 30 gram personal possession limit, and prohibition on growing more than four plants per household at one time. 

While the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut have the above in common, the proposed rules continue to differ between each Territory. Below, are the top 3 things to know about cannabis legalization in each Territory:

YUKON: Cannabis Control and Regulation Act

  • The Yukon government will control the purchase and import of cannabis for sale through the Yukon Liquor Corporation, which will be responsible for distributing cannabis to public and private retail stores, and online sales and delivery. A Cannabis Licensing Board will be created to license stores who may only sell cannabis purchased from the Yukon Liquor Corporation.
  • Cannabis use is restricted to a "dwelling house" and is not permitted in public. A dwelling house is described as a building or part of a building, structure or other unit that is kept or occupied as a permanent or temporary residence and the land that is attached to the residence. 
  • There will be no "dry" communities; however, the Government of the Yukon has stated that public intoxication tickets will be issued to those under the influence of cannabis in public and that the Government is prepared to deploy extra officers, if necessary.

NORTHWEST TERRITORIES: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act

  • The Liquor Commission will be responsible for distribution and sale in "cannabis stores," which will initially be the existing liquor stores. The proposed framework contemplates approving "cannabis‐only" stores in the future. Residents will also be able to mail-order cannabis from liquor stores; however, the proposed legislation does not consider whether the liquor stores will also sell cannabis online.
  • Individuals will be allowed to smoke cannabis in any place where tobacco can be smoked, in addition to some public places such as trails or parks when they are not being used for public events.  
  • Similar to the alcohol laws, communities will be able to restrict or ban the sale and use of cannabis. These communities could either be "prohibited" communities, banning recreational cannabis use altogether, or "restricted" communities, which would impose additional obligations on those who use cannabis for recreational purposes.

NUNAVUT: No Proposed Legislation– Proposal Released January 2018

  • Nunavut has no plans to open a physical purchase location in 2018. Once legalized, citizens would be able to order cannabis online through the federal distribution system and have it shipped to their address. According to consultations undertaken by the Government of Nunavut, citizens of Nunavut were evenly split on whether cannabis should be sold publicly or privately.  
  • Individuals will be allowed to smoke cannabis in some public places where tobacco can be smoked, and in their homes.
  • There would be no "dry" communities; however, municipalities would be able to restrict cannabis use in certain municipal spaces.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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