Justice Minister Louis Sebert released the GNWT’s proposed plan for legalized cannabis in the NWT on Nov. 24.

Louis Sebert: minister of Justice releases plan for legalized cannabis in the NWT. NNSL file photo

The plan would allow people over 19 years old to carry up to 30 grams of the drug publicly and use it privately in their own homes.

Peter Groenen, the chief executive officer of K’atlodeeche First Nation, said no discussion has yet been held on whether it will hold a plebiscite to ban cannabis on the Hay River Reserve, where alcohol is currently prohibited.

“It’s something council will have to consider what they want to do,” he said. “It hasn’t been talked about at all.”

The Cannabis Legalization in the Northwest Territories: The Way Forward report provides an overview of the GNWT’s proposed approach on the matters for which it is responsible, including minimum age, possession limits, public smoking, the sale and distribution of recreational cannabis, impaired driving, workplace safety and public education.

“Our government is working to make sure the NWT is ready with a framework for regulating recreational cannabis when the Government of Canada makes it legal in July 2018,” stated Sebert in a news release. “We know this issue matters to Northerners and that is why we have made public engagement a priority and will continue to keep residents informed throughout this process as we work with the members of the legislative assembly to ensure we have the appropriate laws, guidelines, policies and programs in place to achieve an orderly management of legal cannabis by July 2018.”

The GNWT plans to introduce legislation in the February/March sitting of the legislative assembly in order to meet the federal deadline of July.

Earlier this year, the GNWT held community meetings on cannabis legalization, including in Hay River where there were many concerns raised about the coming change.

At the Sept. 19 meeting, some expressed worry that cannabis legalization would negatively impact efforts to fight substance abuse in the NWT.

There was some support for legalization, including from one person who noted that government control of production and distribution would result in safer marijuana that is not laced with other drugs.

Fact File: Marijuana Rules

  • A proposed minimum age for the possession and consumption of cannabis of 19 years.

  • Adults 19 and older will be allowed to possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis or its equivalent in a public place. Adults will also be allowed to grow up to four plants per household for personal use.

  • Adults 19 and older will be allowed to smoke cannabis in their homes. Public smoking of cannabis will be prohibited in certain areas to protect others from second-hand smoke.

  • The NWT Liquor Commission will import and sell cannabis in the NWT. Initially, NWT residents will only be able to purchase cannabis through liquor stores or by a mail order service run by the NWT Liquor Commission.

  • Communities can opt to hold a plebiscite to prohibit cannabis, similar to the options currently available to restrict alcohol.

  • The Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission will be responsible for reviewing occupational health and safety regulations and consulting with employers, labour groups and workers to ensure that any changes address impairment issues.

  • The GNWT will set up new sanctions for drug-impaired driving.

Source: GNWT news release

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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