Incoming cannabis legislation will have unwanted side-effects: uncertain reaction time on regulation, short-term confusion about who will supply cannabis and delayed coordination with retailers, says an MLA. The NWT is “far behind” jurisdictions like the Yukon and Ontario, who have secured suppliers, and announced sale prices, said Kam Lake MLA Kieron Testart.

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The NWT is “far behind” jurisdictions like the Yukon and Ontario, who have secured suppliers, and announced sale prices, according to Kam Lake MLA Kieron Testart.

Interviews with liquor stores in Norman Wells, Fort Simpson and Yellowknife revealed the operators are still waiting on directions from the NWT Liquor Commission on how the roll-out will proceed.

Ontario has developed its model publicly. Alberta has regulations for cannabis stores and New Brunswick has established its supply agreements.

Little clarity

There is little clarity on how legislation is going to be carried out in the NWT, said Testart.

The draft legislation outlines standards on legal cannabis, but is silent on cost and supply management agreements.

“At this point, the momentum behind legalized cannabis is so important to disrupting the illegal trade of cannabis,” said Testart.

“My fear is that the lack of information and the great amount of questions being raised by the public about the GNWT’s approach to cannabis is not giving anyone certainty that this is going to achieve the desired results.”

While the federal Cannabis Act is expected to come into effect in the first week of July, the NWT’s final legislation is up for a third reading, where it
will be subject to debate.

“The NWT Liquor Commission is currently in negotiations with several different suppliers,” stated liquor commission spokesperson Todd Sasaki in an email.

The commission will then sign a letter of intent, and a final supply agreement by the time cannabis is legalized at the federal level, stated Sasaki.

The Canadian Senate will vote no later than June 7, Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said during a February scrum.

Nothing about a possible supply agreement has been shared publicly, or with regular MLAs, said Testart.

‘In the dark’

“Nobody is aware. Communities aren’t aware. Indigenous governments aren’t aware. Entrepreneurs aren’t aware. Regular members aren’t aware of all the details,” he said. “I’m still in the dark just as much as anybody else is.”

The NWT Liquor Commission is responsible for distributing and selling cannabis in the territory, said Sasaki.

“Once legislation is passed by the assembly, the liquor commission will work directly with liquor store operators to set up distribution and ensure that all employees are properly trained,” he said.

Liquor stores are waiting on further details from the commission.

The owner of Yellowknife’s two liquor stores said over the phone that he knew too little of what to expect to comment.

MLA’s have posed questions to the minister of justice, said Testart.

“When the government can’t speak to those,” he said, “I think that Northerners are right to be concerned whether or not we are ready for legal cannabis.”

Avery Zingel

Avery Zingel is a reporter and photographer in Yellowknife, regularly covering environment, health and territorial politics. Avery is a graduate of the Carleton University School of Journalism and Political...

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