Coun. Samson Hartland in July 2018. During a regular council meeting on March 25, Hartland said he supported proposed changes to the business licensing bylaw related to cannabis sales but that he wanted more information on hours. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Whitehorse council defers second reading of pot-related bylaw changes

Hours and enforcement are key concerns

Whitehorse council voted to defer the second reading of a motion to revamp a portion of the business licensing bylaw dealing with cannabis retailers to remove clauses which have become redundant under territorial cannabis regulations at the March 25 regular council meeting.

The motion passed first reading but council deferred in order to give administration more time to gather information from the territorial government about their cannabis legislation and to clarify questions council had around the hours cannabis shops should be allowed to remain open.

The city initially made changes to its business licensing bylaws to accommodate the Yukon government pot shop, which opened in October 2018. Those changes were initially made “prior to Yukon government regulations” being in place, Pat Ross, manager of building services for the city told council at the March 18 standing committees meeting

The territorial government released its own regulations in December 2018, making some regulations in the city bylaws “redundant,” Ross said. Those regulations largely surround security requirements, criminal records checks, video surveillance and the way cannabis products are displayed.

Under the present city business licensing bylaw, the city limits the sale of cannabis to between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m., but the territorial legislation allows for sales to go until 2 a.m., similar to alcohol. Administration had suggested council change its bylaw to be in keeping with the territorial legislation in order to remove the onus of enforcement from bylaw officers, who might not be available during those hours, but council was reticent to allow such late hours of sale.

Coun. Dan Boyd said he didn’t think having pot shops open until 2 a.m. was an “appropriate” closing time for cannabis sales.

“I have an interest in rolling those hour back to something more reasonable,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s necessary to be open that late.”

Coun. Samson Hartland said he supported administrations suggestions but he wanted more information and to reach out for the Yukon government for some discussion, especially on the subject of hours.

“There are a number of jurisdictions across Canada that have tackled this… we aren’t making these decisions in isolation,” he said.

Council and administration were unclear, however, on whether or nor the territorial government would enforce the hours stated in their bylaw, instead of the those in the legislation.

Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu pointed out that city bylaws are “complaint driven” which would mean that the enforcement of hours for pot shops would be based on citizens reporting violations to bylaw if left to the city to enforce those hours.

“If we set the hours where we think appropriate I think word will get out,” Coun. Stephen Roddick chimed in.

Myles Dolphin, a spokesperson for the city, told the News on March 29 that the territorial government has said it will enforce the hours the city selects in its bylaws over the 2 a.m. closing time mandated in the territorial legislation, and that it would incorporate those hours into its licensing for cannabis retailers. The Yukon government would use its own enforcement, not bylaw, to do this.

“I think it was kind of prudent to take things slow,” said Mayor Dan Curtis, of the way both territorial and municipal cannabis regulations have been rolling out.

“I kind of wish we had this opportunity for offsales and liquor sales… now the toothpaste is out of the tube and it’s kind of hard to claw it back.”

Other amendments being proposed in the bylaw include adding a definition of “restricted goods” and an update to what qualifies as “retail services.”

Second reading will now be held with third reading at the April 8 regular council meeting.

Contact Lori Fox at lori.fox@yukon-news.com

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