The Trudeau government's implementation of legalized marijuana has sparked debate between Dene leaders who support the law and those opposed to cannabis in their communities.

Some Dene leaders spoke to CBC after the recent Dene leadership meeting in Dettah.

Peter Marcellais, Chief of Nahanni Butte, tells CBC that he wants the Northwest Territories to embrace legalization instead of fighting the federal government on something that is inevitable anyway.

"There's no way you're going to stop that so legalize it." said Chief Marcellais.

Peter Marcellais, Chief Nahanni Butte

Peter Marcellais, Chief of Nahanni Butte, says territory should work closely with federal government on cannabis legalization. (Hilary Bird/CBC)

"We got a dry community but we're still getting it in. So whether you do it, it's still going to be there. I just want to make sure everybody's healthy."

The federal government plans on legalizing cannabis Canada-wide on July 1, 2018.

Chiefs who are against marijuana legalization in their communities are concerned it will have a negative effect on their youth.

Victor Fauvier, a member of the Ka'a'gee Tu First Nation, is against all drugs coming into the community of Kakisa.

"I don't think it's a good idea." said Fauvier.  

"Especially for kids, it's not healthy. I know it's not good. Government doesn't care. They're making their own rules and it's not really healthy.

"A really unpopular choice. No drugs in Kakisa."

The division between leaders on cannabis legalization was first discussed in October at the Dene Leadership Meeting in Dettah.

Yellowknives Dene First Nation Chief Eddie Sangris expressed concern for how legalization will affect the Dehcho region.

"Marijuana legislation is going to make a lot of money for some lawyers." said Sangris.

"It's a big issue and it's not going to go away." said Dehcho First Nation Grand Chief Herb Norwegian. "It's up to the communities how to best deal with this."

Just how much control communities in the Northwest Territories will have over the distribution of marijuana will largely depend on legislation passed by the Government of the Northwest Territories.


K’atl’odeeche First Nation Chief Roy Fabian is in favour of marijuana legalization. (CBC)

K'atl'odeeche First Nation Chief Roy Fabian is one of the few Dene leaders who spoke in favour of marijuana legalization.

"Everybody smokes it." said Fabian. "We have bigger issues to deal with."