First directions set on cannabis regulation
The provincial government today outlined three significant directions related to implementing the federal government’s objective of legalizing cannabis.
As Prince Edward Island prepares in the months ahead for legislation and enforcement of federal cannabis legalization, the provincial government is focused on: ensuring Islanders can make an informed choice; and reducing the illegal market for cannabis. The following directions have been made around legal age, public consumption, and distribution:
- the legal age for cannabis use will be age 19, aligned with the province’s legal age for alcohol and tobacco;
- cannabis use will be restricted to private residences – with a potential for expansion to designated public spaces at a later date – to help limit its impact on communities and public health; and
- cannabis will be sold in dedicated government-owned retail locations to ensure that we provide for safe, secure and responsible retailing of cannabis. Additionally, it will be sold through an e-commerce platform.
The directions announced today are in line with other jurisdictions as all provinces and territories work to meet the federal government’s time line and objectives.
Government has consulted extensively with Islanders throughout the direction-setting process; nearly 3,000 completed the public engagement survey, and written submissions and in-person meetings are ongoing. A summary of the work to date, and information on the cannabis legislation, can be found at www.princeedwardisland.ca/cannabis.
While these first three policy directions are significant steps in the legalization framework for Prince Edward Island, there are additional decisions to come related to keeping our Island roads safe, ensuring informed choice including keeping cannabis away from children, public health, and enforcing the laws and regulations that will come along with legalization.
To address public health and safety concerns, a comprehensive public awareness campaign will be launched in January 2018 to ensure that Islanders can make informed choices once cannabis is made legal.
Following extensive research, public engagement, stakeholder collaboration, and monitoring the decisions of jurisdictions, the province is moving forward with three directions regarding the legalization of cannabis in Prince Edward Island, with health and safety top of mind.
1) PEI will set the legal age for cannabis use at 19 years.
- A federal task force for cannabis legalization in Canada has recommended a national minimum age of purchase of 18 years. The province has authority to set the minimum age of purchase at or above 18 years.
- The establishment of a minimum age of purchase is necessary for enforcement and to restrict youth access to non-medical cannabis.
Some of the reasons we’ve chosen this option are that it:
- reduces youth exposure to the illicit market and associated criminal population;
- ensures access to safe, regulated product supply for this age;
- ensures consistency with minimum age for alcohol related to facilitation of harm reduction and enforcement messaging and practices; and
- aligns with neighboring provinces.
We know that many young adults are using cannabis. In PEI in 2015, 28.7% of 18 to 24 year olds reported using cannabis in past year. We want to ensure that if a 19 year old chooses to- use cannabis, that they can do so through a legal supply, and not force them to associate with a criminal source.
Regional harmonization is essential to prevent cross-jurisdictional shopping and also impacts effectiveness of provincial regime. Most provinces and territories have indicated an intention to align the minimum age of purchase of cannabis with the age of purchase for alcohol and tobacco. New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia have all adopted the age of 19.
2) PEI will restrict recreational cannabis use to private residences, with potential for designated spaces.
- Initially, the federal government’s legalization and regulations of cannabis will apply to fresh or dried cannabis and cannabis oils that can be smoked or vaped. Regulations for edibles cannabis products are not anticipated until mid 2019.
- The federal government will not be regulating the public smoking/vaping of cannabis. The province has the authority to determine whether recreational cannabis can be consumed in public and if so, where and under what circumstances.
Some of the reasons we’ve chosen this option are that:
- it will prevent exposure to secondhand cannabis smoke;
- it will prevent the normalization of cannabis smoking without stigmatization, and
- there will be a reduced expectation on police.
Medical cannabis use in public is to be considered separately. Provisions certainly will need to be made for medical users – today we are just talking about recreational cannabis use.
Violating public use laws could result in fines and other legal penalties, those decisions have not yet been made and will be part of the larger cannabis legislative framework still under development.
3) The PEI Liquor Control Commission will be the retail distributor for cannabis products through dedicated unique sites and online mechanisms.
- Provinces and territories must decide how cannabis will be sold, stored and distributed in their province.
- The Federal Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation recommends that cannabis not be sold in the same location as alcohol or tobacco to avoid encouraging the use of both substances together.
Some of the reasons we’ve chosen this option:
- PEILCC can ensure safe and responsible retailing in early legalization;
- cannabis will not be sold in the same stores as alcohol;
- dedicated stores will avoid encouraging the use of both alcohol and cannabis together (as recommended by the federal taskforce);
- PEILCC has experience, infrastructure and legislative authority that can be leveraged for effective distribution and security of cannabis;
- the e-commerce platform will provide for province-wide distribution; and
- utilizing a public body for distribution will lessens the demand on municipalities to enact bylaws within the compressed period of time.
The Prince Edward Island Liquor Control Commission has developed a proposed retail approach for a limited number of dedicated retail locations with a fully functional e-commerce platform to be operational by July 2018.
The proposed retail model will be developed with consideration to geographic distribution and evolving best practices learned from other jurisdictions (e.g. store design, security, IT systems, customer experience, product mix, regulatory requirements, etc.).
E-commerce design would also be designed to offer a range of products for customers through online sales with necessary security safeguards and delivery in partnership with Canada Post. Canada Post currently supports the federal medical cannabis distribution.