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The federal government’s key objectives for legalizing cannabis are:
- to remove the illegal market (particularly organized crime); and
- to help restrict youth access.
For the short term, legal cannabis will consist of fresh and dried cannabis material, seeds and cannabis oils. The federal government has announced that it does not intend to legalize edible cannabis products until one year after the initial legislation is enacted.
The GNWT objective with respect to distribution and sales is to ensure that that people over the minimum age have the ability to purchase legally produced cannabis without promoting or normalizing its use.
Despite legalization, cannabis is still a controlled substance. Its consumption creates obvious impairment, and its sale should be regulated in a way that is similar to other controlled substances, such as alcohol.
The GNWT has chosen to regulate the cannabis market in the Northwest Territories through the Liquor Commission and to initially sell cannabis through the existing liquor stores and mail order system. The Liquor Commission/liquor stores/mail order system ensures that NWT residents will have access to cannabis at prices that are competitive with the illegal market, so that the GNWT can do its part to reduce the illegal market and help restrict youth access.
The controls on the retail businesses will be substantial, including but not limited to:
- No customers below the age of 19 will be permitted in the store;
- Cannabis products must be locked at all times and available by request only; and
- Employees will be required to have training to ensure that they are knowledgeable about the products available for sale.
The Cannabis Products Act allows for the establishment of private cannabis retailers in communities across the NWT, provided that these retailers meet a set of established criteria. These criteria will be finalized within the next six months. Once the criteria have been developed, private retailers will be able to apply for a license to sell cannabis legally.
Some participants in the public engagement called for economic opportunities such as licensed premises where cannabis may be consumed like alcohol may currently be consumed in bars and licensed food establishments, and others saw opportunities for the manufacture and sale of their own edibles, in a cottage-industry style.
Retail establishments where cannabis can be consumed in any form will be a discussion for the future.
Under the Cannabis Products Act, the NWT Liquor Commission will be able to make agreements with other entrepreneurs/businesses to operate a cannabis-only retail store. Any such agreements will depend on the applicant’s ability to operate according to any/all legislation and regulations for the safe and secure retail of cannabis in the NWT.
The criteria potential retailers must meet in order to operate a cannabis store will be finalized by December 2018, or sooner. Once the criteria have been developed, private retailers will be able to apply for a license to sell cannabis legally. There is no specific plan to support future economic and business opportunities directly related to cannabis.
Any entrepreneur looking to produce cannabis or manufacture cannabis products can get the same sort of support that the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment would provide any other business.
As with any new industry, there could certainly be spin-off opportunities. The GNWT will support entrepreneurs looking to capitalize on this new market just as we support the spirit of entrepreneurship across all sectors of our economy.
Production is regulated at the federal level, and prospective producers must comply with federal requirements and follow the federal application process if they wish to produce cannabis..
ITI programs such as SEED could be accessed to assist in the establishment of such a business operation.
ITI is open to considering options for providing other means of support, for example letters of support, to potential producers seeking federal approval.