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NWT communities will have options available to them regarding cannabis.
Unrestricted communities will have no restrictions on cannabis beyond those described in the Cannabis Products Act and its regulations.
Prohibited or restricted communities
Communities will have the ability to prohibit or restrict the possession, consumption and sale of cannabis. Communities can prohibit/restrict cannabis sales in their community using similar rules as for alcohol sale prohibitions. In order to establish a prohibition a community government must make a resolution and then make a request to the Minister of Finance to hold a plebiscite. To be successful, a plebiscite must achieve a majority vote in favour of prohibition or restriction.
Similar to alcohol, restrictions put into place by a plebiscite would be enforceable by the RCMP.
The cannabis plebiscite option is available to a community government until such a time as that community has a cannabis store. Once a cannabis store is operating in a community, community governments no longer have the option to hold a plebiscite to ask to prohibit or restrict the sale of cannabis.
To ensure that product is available on legalization day, the GNWT is planning to initially sell cannabis through NWT liquor stores as well as through an online purchasing system. If one of the six communities with liquor stores where cannabis stores could be sold want to prohibit or restrict cannabis sales, a plebiscite will need to be held before October 17, 2018. Those communities that will not immediately have local cannabis stores do not face the same time constraints, and will have the ability to prohibit or restrict cannabis at any time prior to the establishment of a cannabis store in the community.
Recognizing that a community may want to prohibit or restrict cannabis sales immediately, the Department of Finance in collaboration with the Department of Justice is committed to conducting a plebiscite within 25 days of the date when the Minister of Finance receives a resolution from a municipal or band council. Any municipal or band council resolution that request a plebiscite will need to be submitted to the Minister of Finance before July 16 in order to put the results in regulations in time for when cannabis becomes legal.
Undersection 12 of the Cannabis Products Act a community may approve a prohibition or restriction system, and the Act goes on to explain how that would work. As there are no communities with cannabis stores before legalization day, this section applies to all communities.
As soon as the Minister designates the liquor stores as cannabis stores, then section 14 provides an exception that applies to those communities with cannabis stores. Any community where there are plans to have a cannabis store can only hold a plebiscite before the store has opened.
Once a cannabis store has opened in a community, there is no longer an option to hold a plebiscite to restrict or prohibit cannabis. This provision is in place in order to protect businesses from potential losses (i.e. investments in supply, updating a retail location to meet regulatory requirements, etc.).
As noted above, communities will be able to hold a plebiscite in advance of legalization day (and the opening of stores). This will ensure that every NWT community has the option to pursue further restrictions or prohibitions.
Community governments will have the authority to create and enforce their own bylaws that expand on the provisions set out under the Cannabis Smoking Control Act.
No ministerial approval is required. Any fine revenue collected under the bylaw stays in the community.
If a community government decides at any time that it would like the authority to enforce the Cannabis Smoking Control Act, it can request that its community enforcement officers be designated as inspectors by a regulation made under the Act.