N.W.T. gov't launches online survey as marijuana legalization consultation begins

'I'm very confident that what we learn in this engagement will significantly inform the decision the government makes going forward,' says assistant deputy minister of Justice.

Survey part of public consultations by territory in advance of legalization on July 1, 2018

The government of the Northwest Territories wants to hear from residents on new pot laws for the territory. (Walter Strong/CBC)

The government of the Northwest Territories wants to hear from residents on new pot laws for the territory. On Tuesday it launched an online survey to find out how the public wants to see legal marijuana managed.

Mark Aitken, assistant deputy minister, attorney general, for the Department of Justice, said the survey is part of a months-long process to make N.W.T laws that abide with federal law soon to come in force, while respecting the will and concerns of Northern residents.

"I'm very confident that what we learn in this engagement will significantly inform the decision the government makes going forward," said Aitken. 

Room to customize

The survey is anonymous and begins with the taker selecting the region he or she lives in. From there, the questionnaire proceeds through a wide range of topics like consumption while operating a vehicle, retailing, youth access and public health.

There is room for the territory to tailor its rules. For example, the territory has the flexibility to decide the legal age for possession, the means of retail distribution of marijuana, legal personal limits, and — possibly — community-based prohibitions or restrictions similar to those already in place for alcohol.

Yellowknife resident Cullen McLeod told CBC he definitely intends to fill out the survey. (Walter Strong/CBC)

Whatever the results of the survey, the territorial government will have to have new legislation in place by July, 2018. That's when federal legislation kicks in legalizing cannabis. 

Yellowknife resident Cullen McLeod told CBC he definitely intends to fill out the survey. He did not describe legalized marijuana as a big issue for himself, but said the government could play an important role when marijuana is legalized next year.

"If the government takes control of it, it'll be safer to partake of it without having to worry about issues of it being contaminated or laced with other things," he said.

The survey runs till Sept. 22. It should take about 15 minutes to fill out. It can be found on the government's website here.

In September the territorial government will begin a series of public meetings in regional centres and some smaller communities — nine all together.

The final itinerary is not written in stone, but Aitken said it's likely town hall style meetings will be held in Yellowknife, Inuvik, Norman Wells, Hay River, Fort Simpson, Fort Smith, Behchoko and Tsiigehtchic.

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