North

6 N.W.T. communities face July 16 deadline for cannabis plebiscites

Yellowknife, Hay River, Inuvik, Fort Smith, Norman Wells and Fort Simpson must state their desire for a cannabis plebiscite before July 16.

Communities without liquor store have more time to decide

Some communities in the N.W.T. have a July 16 deadline to decide if a cannabis plebiscite is needed. (David Donnelly/CBC)

It will likely be months before cannabis becomes legally available across Canada and in the Northwest Territories, but one significant deadline looms for six communities in the N.W.T.

Municipalities with liquor stores have until July 16 to notify the government if a cannabis plebiscite to ban or restrict local sales is needed. Communities in the N.W.T. with liquor stores are Yellowknife, Hay River, Inuvik, Fort Smith, Norman Wells and Fort Simpson.

According to a government press release, once cannabis is available through a retail outlet, local governments will no longer be able to hold a plebiscite.

Regardless of how long it takes the federal government to legalize cannabis, municipalities in the N.W.T. are tied to the July 16 deadline because, according to a Department of Finance spokesperson, the territory needs time to allow for plebiscites before pot is legal.

Inuvik mayor Jim McDonald said he expects town council to convene a public meeting before making a decision on whether or not to apply for a plebiscite. (David Michael Lamb/CBC)

"The time-frame is tight, but I think we have the time," said Inuvik's Mayor Jim McDonald.

"We're not too concerned at this stage, but we … would like to get a better feel for where the community is at."

McDonald said he expects town council to convene a public meeting before making a decision on whether or not to apply for a plebiscite. There are two council meetings before the July 16 deadline to make a decision.

Communities without liquor stores have more time to ask for a plebiscite. They have until a cannabis retail outlet opens within their community before it's too late to apply.

Pot stores are unlikely to suddenly pop up anywhere in the N.W.T. — the regulations for private cannabis stores have yet to be set.

The government expects to finalize those regulations within six months of whenever cannabis is made legal.

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