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Cannabis to be sold at liquor store checkouts

Cannabis products are expected to be sold at checkout counters in existing liquor stores, where customers will have to ask a cashier for the product.

The products will be displayed behind glass in stores where display cases are available, stated Todd Sasaki, communications officer for the finance department, in an email.

“For stores without display cases, full colour posters with product descriptions will be used. These posters will also be in the stores with display cases,” said Sasaki.

Sophie Call, director of health, wellness and student support at the Department of Education, Culture and Employment, left, Mark Aitken, assistant deputy minister of justice, and Kelly Bluck, director of fiscal policy at the finance department share details of the GNWT’s proposed framework for the legalization of cannabis in the territory. Kirsten Fenn/NNSL photo

The federal government, meanwhile, will be responsible for packaging.

“It is anticipated that all cannabis products will be in sealed, tamper-proof packaging that will have producer identification, production and tracking numbers, Universal Product Codes as well as the THC content of the cannabis,” said Sasaki.

The GNWT says store staff will be trained appropriately and will be knowledgeable about cannabis products and how to use them safely.

Officials said last week in a media briefing they had not yet identified a training program for those staff.

And while the GNWT’s framework leaves the door open for private businesses to set up “cannabis only” shops, the timeline for when they’ll be allowed to do so remains murky.

“We really don’t know what the timeline would be,” said Kelly Bluck, director of fiscal policy at the Department of Finance. “We’re first of all concerned about whether or not we’re even going to have adequate supply coming from the producers.”

Once territorial legislation is in place, people will be allowed to come forward with business proposals, she said.

Proposals will then go to the Liquor Commission for approval, said Bluck.

Sara Murphy, who is preparing to sell cannabis accessories and eventually wants to open a dispensary and become a licensed cannabis producer, said she isn’t surprised about the fluid timeline.

“That’s kind of how the GNWT works,” said Murphy, adding she already has her business proposal together and has been planning for the process to take a long time.

However, Murphy is pleased to hear the Liquor Commission will be approving proposals, as she’s had a positive experience working with them in the past.

“Their application process is really good,” she said. “I’ve gone through the liquor application process before and Hay River (Liquor Commission office) was hands down the best people to deal with. They were really helpful.”

But she remains concerned about cannabis being sold in the same location as alcohol.

She said doing so will encourage people to use the two substances together, something she has described as “self-destructive.”

“I don’t really think that the Liquor Commission is a bad way to go. I just don’t think that it (cannabis) should be in liquor stores,” said Murphy. “Don’t put it in the same spot. Open up a new store like the rest of us.”

The GNWT released its proposed framework for the legalization of cannabis in the NWT on Nov. 24. The federal government plans to legalize the substance across Canada in July.

The territorial framework states cannabis will initially be sold in liquor stores.