Let the Nunavut gov't know how it should legalize marijuana

Justice Minister Keith Peterson told the Nunavut Legislative Assembly Wednesday that community consultations to develop a plan for legalizing marijuana in the territory could happen by September.

Community consultations could happen as early as this summer, says justice minister

Justice Minister Keith Peterson says broad community consultations could happen by September on how to legalize marijuana in Nunavut. (Vincent Robinet/CBC )

Nunavut could hold broad community consultations on marijuana legalization legislation before September, according to the territory's justice minister.

The territory is facing a tight deadline to pass the law by July 1, 2018. That's when the federal government hopes to have marijuana legalized across the country.

"Go out and talk to groups, organizations, hamlets; get their input, concerns; hear what they have to say. Maybe get some good recommendations on how to proceed," Keith Peterson told the Legislative Assembly Wednesday.

Peterson told CBC News the group could also talk to Nunavut Tunngavik and the RCMP.

The consultations would be held by the interdepartmental working group. It's made up of staff from the departments of justice, health, family services, finance, as well as economic development and transportation.

The working group will look at logistical issues, like how marijuana will be sold, along with health and legal issues.

Baker Lake MLA Simeon Mikkungwak wondered if the sale of marijuana would have similar regulations and restrictions as alcohol.

"Some communities in Nunavut have chosen through local option votes to prohibit the possession or sale of alcohol, while other communities have chosen to restrict the possession of this substance through alcohol education committees."

Peterson said it's complicated.

"Probably more complex in Nunavut given our geography and our distribution network," Peterson said, referring to the territory's two liquor warehouses in Iqaluit and Rankin Inlet. That means Nunavut can't sell marijuana at a liquor store like what some jurisdictions are considering.

Tight deadline

The information gathered in the consultations would be used to prepare a plan to hit the July 1, 2018 deadline.

That plan will help the next government. The already tight timeline is made tighter by the October 30 territorial election.

The new government will only have two sittings before marijuana will be legal.

Peterson told CBC News the goal is to make the July deadline, but the next assembly might need a back-up plan.

"For example, could we take some existing legislation and tinker with that to have something in place just for the time being until we have the necessary legislation in place," he said.

Peterson says although there is not a lot of time, proper consultation still needs to happen.