No pot plebiscite for Yellowknife

by Dylan Short - July 10, 2018

Councillors were cool to the idea of a plebiscite on pot sales this week, but several voiced support for private sales.

Communities can decided whether to hold a referendum on legal cannabis, but there was no support for that at Monday’s Municipal Services Committee meeting.

There will be no plebiscite to determine if Yellowknife should be a dry community once cannabis is legalized.
NNSL file photo

While council agreed cannabis should be sold in the capitol, a number of councillors raised concerns as to how the product should be sold once it does become legal.

“Cannabis is coming to Yellowknife for sure,” said Coun. Neils Konge. “But do we have any opportunity to push (the territorial) sales mode on this?”

According to current legislation, if the Borden Drive location does get designated as the city’s cannabis store, it will be the sole distributor of the product for six months.

After those six months, that same legislation allows for the territorial government to create guidelines and criteria to allow for private distributors to enter the cannabis market as long as they have been deemed to be ‘in the public interest.’

“I certainly don’t support the model of having sales be limited to the liquor shop and I think that we should be expanding to private retailers as soon as possible,” added Coun. Shauna Morgan. “The reality is, it will be difficult to compete with the online black market and I think private retailers have a much better chance of doing that.”

Now members of council want to make sure that the territorial government is held accountable to the timetable that they have created for themselves.

“I want to make sure that those regulations come in six months and not in six years,” said Konge.

A number of Yellowknife residents have already come forward stating that they hope to sell cannabis if privatization becomes an option. Sarah Murphy the owner of Harley’s Hardrock Saloon has stated she hopes to open a head shop called Premium MJ.

Fort Simpson is the only other community in the NWT that has held a vote on whether or not to hold a plebiscite, which ended in the same decision as the capitol.

The federal government has moved the date of legalization to Oct.17 after they had previously aimed for July 1 of this year.

The GNWT intends to have the Uptown Liqour Shop located on Borden Drive as Yellowknife’s sole cannabis store. Edward Eggenberger, the owner of both liqour stores in Yellowknife previously told The Yellowknifer if cannabis were to be sold in the city it would ‘probably’ be sold at the uptown shop.

“Probably,” said Eggenberger. “That would be the one if we did it.”