Nunavut gov't may give private enterprise a piece of the action on legal weed

The Nunavut government is starting another round of public consultation regarding legalized cannabis in the territory, but already has a good idea of what legislation could look like based on what it’s heard so far from Nunavummiut.

Oversight of sales would be maintained by the Nunavut Liquor commission

The government of Nunavut is closing in on its final legislation governing legal cannabis in the territory. (CBC)

The Nunavut government may allow private companies a piece of cannabis distribution within the territory, after the federal government legalizes the recreational use of marijuana this summer, as it's expected to.

Dan Carlson, Nunavut's assistant deputy minister of finance, added that any private enterprise distribution model would be regulated by the Nunavut Liquor Commission.

"We think that's a really interesting way to do it [sell pot] because it contains public oversight with the potential for private benefit and private efficiency," he said.

Nunavut's unique situation of having 25 remote communities with none connected by roads makes distribution in Nunavut a challenge. Carson said the territory is proposing to start with an online or remote order system where, "as long as individuals could prove they are who they say they are, and as long as they can show that they are the minimum age, then we would be able to send them cannabis through the mail."

He said the government is also proposing a minimum legal age of 19, "in line with tobacco and alcohol."

Having delivery of cannabis handled by the private sector, with the government overseeing sales, is a way of splitting the difference when it comes to what Nunavummiut want, based on past surveys.

"Nunavummiut were split about whether they wanted to see public control of sales, or private control," Carlson said.

"The approach that we're proposing … is a bit of mixed approach where the government controls [sales] but has the ability to partner with outside organizations."

Carlson added that survey results so far have shown Nunavummiut to prefer online sales.

These ideas are no more than proposals at the moment. Carlson said the government's next round of public consultation over the next month or so — which will include visits to 11 communities — will help decide the final legislation.

The government is also inviting people to share their ideas using forms that can be found at health centres or income support offices in communities across Nunavut, but consultations must be done before the end of February.

"Based on what we hear from Nunavummiut and [other] stakeholders, we'll be coming back and over the spring deciding how to turn those ideas into legislation," Carlson said.

"If all goes well we'll have legislation proposed by the end of this spring [or] early summer ... in time for Canada's plan to legalize."

with files from Jordan Konek