N.W.T community leaders seek clarity on how to enforce cannabis laws

'We really have to educate ourselves first before we deal with or take any action to the community,' said the mayor of Paulatuk, Raymond Ruben Sr.

Workplace safety and youth using cannabis remain key issues for some communities

Paulatuk mayor Raymond Ruben Sr, left, says this week's meeting with community leaders will hopefully spark up ideas on how to implement new rules and regulations in his community. (Andrew Pacey/CBC)

Leaders from communities across the Northwest Territories continue to seek clarification on how exactly their people could be affected by new legal cannabis rules.

Since cannabis legalization was introduced in October, some communities still don't know how they can enforce new laws, said the mayor of Paulatuk, N.W.T. Raymond Ruben Sr.

Issues and concerns in regard to legalization were discussed at a conference for community governments on Wednesday and Thursday in Yellowknife.

"We really have to educate ourselves first before we deal with or take any action to the community," said Ruben, who  has one major question: "how do we inform our members of the legalization of cannabis?"

People smoked cannabis in the community before legalization, Ruben said. However, community members in Paulatuk don't know how or if the laws around the drug will be changed.        

"As a community being far in the North ... we've got the policies but we don't have the education and people do not know about [any new] policies," he said.  

Gov't conference aims to promote ideas for Northern leaders

The Northwest Territories government hosted the conference to get feedback on how the transition into legalization has impacted communities.

Held at the Chateau Nova hotel, the conference gave Indigenous governments the opportunity to learn about cannabis and how they can create new laws for their community members.

The two day meeting gave insight to the do's and don'ts of using the drug. Lloyd Chicot, the chief of Kakisa, said the presentations were effective.

Chicot said community members are still uncertain on a few cannabis-related laws, more specifically rules for workplace impairment.

Kakisa is a designated authority with a population of roughly 50 people.  

The conference was a good opportunity to network with other First Nations governments and see how they have altered their rules for people on the job, he said.  

Lloyd Chicot, the chief of Kakisa. (Andrew Pacey/CBC)

"We just got the opportunity to start that discussion ... what we can do, what we can put in place, and how we can deal with [cannabis]," said Chicot.

The conference gave Chicot more clarity on how he can create new rules and regulations for cannabis in Kakisa, he said.

Any future policy changes will be done keeping youth as the backbone of the discussion, he said. 

With files from Alyssa Mosher