PEI Municipalities: Preparing for Cannabis Legalization

July 11, 2018

As the highly anticipated day of cannabis legalization in Canada draws near, Prince Edward Island municipalities must acknowledge and prepare for the challenges coming their way.

Canada’s Cannabis Act (the “Act”) is set to be implemented in October 2018. The federal legislation creates a legal framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis across the country. However, it is the provinces, and specifically the municipalities, across Canada that will be the most connected to and affected by the legalization.

The Act sets out a number of general restrictions which include:

  • 18 years of age as the minimum age requirement for use, purchase, cultivation and possession;
  • restricting home grow cultivation to a maximum of four plants per dwelling; limiting possession to 30 grams of legally-produced cannabis; and
  • trafficking and advertising rules and parameters.

The proposed Prince Edward Island cannabis policy and legislative framework is meant to supplement the Act, with the benefit of feedback from survey respondents and partner organizations on Prince Edward Island. The focus is to prevent youth possession, protect public health and public safety, and eliminate the illegal cannabis market.

The Prince Edward Island legislative framework:

  • raises the minimum age to 19 years old for use, purchase, cultivation, and possession;
  • restricts the consumption of recreational cannabis to private dwellings and property, while giving property owners the right to set rules of use on their respective property;
  • restricts the consumption of recreational (and medical) cannabis in vehicles, which include motor vehicles, boats, and off-road vehicles.

In addition, provincial legislators will ensure that the rules around monitoring, inspection, enforcement and penalties align with existing legislation, specifically the Highway Traffic Act, R.S.P.E.I. 1988, c. H-5 and the Smoke-free Places Act, R.S.P.E.I. 1988, c. S-4. Some examples include: impaired driving penalties and the authority to inspect and enforce the legislation on suspected impaired driving or youth possession.

Prince Edward Island will have four dedicated government-owned retail locations for cannabis sales in 2018 and an e-commerce platform with direct-to-home delivery. These will be controlled by the PEI Cannabis Management Corporation, a Crown Corporation.

In addition to federal education efforts, the province of Prince Edward Island indicates their commitment to long-term financial investment in harm reduction, education and awareness, research and surveillance. Some examples include education of police officers on detection and roadside assessments, and education for employers on occupational health and safety rules.

While the provincial government has taken steps in the regulation of legalized cannabis, municipalities will also have a role to play, as concerns from business owners, community organizations and citizens will be directed to municipal leaders.

First and foremost are the concerns for land-use and zoning regulations. Municipalities have to consider whether any additional or amended zoning regulations for properties or buildings used to produce or sell cannabis are needed, whether there will be specific permits required for the sale or production of cannabis and cannabis products, and the location of buildings or properties authorized to sell or produce cannabis (can a cannabis retailer be neighbours with a daycare?). Furthermore, legislation like the Smoke-free Places Act, R.S.P.E.I. 1988, c S-4 must be clear on what constitutes a private dwelling and designated smoking area to protect the public from second hand cannabis smoke and to avoid disputes on interpretation of where someone is permitted to consume cannabis.

A more obvious concern for municipalities are the issues around the odour associated with cannabis. Prince Edward Island municipalities are going to face complaints from citizens who are concerned with the smell from their neighbour’s home, or business owners who say the smell is deterring customers and affecting their business. There is no clear answer to resolving this issue as the odour will have different effects on different persons. Municipalities will have to develop a system to guide enforcement officers on proper measurement and assessment of the odour and the corresponding alleged damage or nuisance.

As municipalities are the closest government connection to cannabis legalization, they will inevitably deal with enforcement. Enforcement issues may require municipalities to implement additional training for police officers and bylaw enforcement officers and/or may necessitate additional personnel for enforcement purposes. Municipalities will also need to develop protocols and procedures for issuing tickets for the illegal use, cultivation, possession, or sale of cannabis and for impaired driving, smoking restrictions, and nuisance complaints.

Canadian provinces and municipalities must work alongside the Federal government and the Act to address the specific issues that communities, business owners, and municipal leaders are going to face. They must be responsive prior to cannabis legalization and adapt to the changing needs of society as the legalization happens and moves forward.

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