Province sets next policy directions for cannabis legalization
As Prince Edward Island works to meet the federal government’s timeline for cannabis legalization this summer, the province continues to set policy direction to meet the needs and expectations of Islanders.
The province today (January 16) announced next steps in the areas of possession, drug-impaired driving, transporting, harm reduction and education, and details on our retail model and suppliers. Government continues to consult with partners including municipalities, law enforcement, the medical community, education, justice system, and the agricultural community.
“In setting direction on cannabis, our focus remains on getting rid of the illegal market, ensuring Islanders are making an informed choice, and protecting the public health and safety of Islanders,” Finance Minister Heath MacDonald said. “This is a major project that involves or impacts almost every department of government, and we continue to work with our key partners and Islanders to ensure that the decisions we make are in the best interests of the entire province.”
This latest set of policy directions includes:
- Adult possession - adults will be allowed to publicly possess 30 grams of lawful dried cannabis or the equivalent, which aligns with the federal legislation.
- Youth possession – youth under 19 will be prohibited from possessing cannabis. The province's approach to protecting youth will focus on prevention, diversion, and harm reduction, without unnecessarily bringing them into contact with the justice system.
- Drug-impaired driving - the province will strengthen roadside suspension and create a summary offense in cases of impaired driving with a minor, with potential for increasing penalties in the future.
- Transporting - when transporting cannabis, it must remain in unopened packaging and, where an open package is being transported the product will be required to be secure and inaccessible to anyone in the vehicle.
- Education - public health and safety campaigns for cannabis are already underway and will intensify as legalization approaches. In addition, the province will support youth, young adults and all Islanders by developing educational and harm-reduction strategies. The approach will include education, health, and social service providers that work with – and educate – Islanders.
- Retail model - Prince Edward Island will have four dedicated government-owned retail locations for cannabis sales in 2018, as well as an e-commerce platform with direct-to-home delivery. The retail sites will be in Charlottetown, Summerside, Montague, and West Prince.
- Suppliers - the province is entering into agreements with three companies to supply legal and regulated product:
- Canada’s Island Garden of Charlottetown;
- OrganiGram of Moncton, N.B.; and
- Canopy Growth Corporation of Smith Falls, Ont.
These policy directions are significant steps in the cannabis legalization framework for Prince Edward Island. There are additional decisions to come related to personal cultivation, ticketing offences, and other topics which require legislative or regulatory direction.
Here is further detail on the provincial government’s latest round of policy direction around the federal government’s legalization of cannabis this summer.
Prince Edward Island will align adult personal possession amounts with federal legislation to permit 30 grams of lawful dried cannabis or equivalent in public and no restrictions in personal residences at this time, and enable regulation making authority to consider in-home possession limits.
To protect our young people, the province will prohibit individuals under age 19 from possessing or consuming recreational cannabis, which will allow police to confiscate cannabis from young people. The province's approach to protecting youth will focus on prevention, diversion, and harm reduction without unnecessarily bringing them into contact with the justice system. The province will implement a diversion first model with graduated penalties, similar to alcohol, for circumstances where offences occur repeatedly or other offences occur concurrently.
When it comes to driving, our key objective is to strengthen impaired-driving provisions and deter people from consuming drugs and driving. Drivers who have used cannabis are up to six times more likely to get into a motor vehicle collision than drivers who are not impaired.
Prince Edward Island will take an incremental approach to aligning with the federal amendments to impaired driving provisions, mirroring the current alcohol-impaired driving regime and maintaining current roadside suspension penalties. Further, a summary offence in cases of impaired driving with a minor will be created.
Prince Edward Island will also place restrictions on the transportation of cannabis in motorized vehicles, including off-road vehicles, and vessels. Similar to alcohol regulations, purchased cannabis must be transported in either the unopened packaging it is purchased in or, where an open package is being transported, the product must be secure and inaccessible to anyone in the vehicle.
It is expected that these measures will assist in promoting social norms around safe and responsible possession and transport of cannabis.
Harm reduction and education
“We want to educate islanders, so that they can make an informed decision about cannabis use,” Minister MacDonald said. “The approach will also include education, health and social service providers that work with, and educate, Islanders.”
We want to ensure that, once cannabis is legal, Islanders are educated appropriately so that they can make an informed choice. The province will support youth, young adults and all Islanders through the development of an educational and harm reduction strategies.
In December 2017 it was announced that Prince Edward Island would have dedicated government-owned retail locations for cannabis sales and an e-commerce platform.
The province will be issuing an RFP seeking retail location site in Charlottetown, Summerside, Montague and West Prince for 2018. These four locations, chosen based on population density, will allow the province to gauge sales in different areas of the province, and plan for future expansion if needed.
Safeguards are being put in place to ensure that locations are reasonable and appropriate, so that they are a respectful distance for schools, that they have the necessary security elements, ventilation systems and that they meet all of the requirements as laid out in the RFP.
The e-commerce platform is also being developed with direct-to-home delivery, which will provide all islanders with access to recreational cannabis should they not have a retail store in their community.
Securing adequate supply leading up to the legalization date is essential.
“Islanders who choose to partake in recreational cannabis in PEI can be confident that the products available to them will be safe and provided through a licensed supplier. They will know what they are buying and can be confident that it is a quality product,” said Minister MacDonald.
The province is entering into MOU agreements with three companies to supply legal and regulated product.
- Canada’s Island Garden located in Charlottetown;
- OrganiGram of Moncton, NB; and
- Canopy Growth Corporation of Smith Falls, Ont.
“We are very pleased to partner with these well recognized firms to secure a safe supply of cannabis for the PEI market,” the minister said. While these memorandums of understanding guarantees the Island a supply of recreational cannabis it does not prevent the province from considering applications from other licensed suppliers.