More Nunavut businesses can now apply to sell cannabis
'We wanted to give an opportunity for cannabis business to be successful in a small community," says official
Business owners in Nunavut can now apply to open kiosks to sell cannabis from their stores — even when minors are in the building.
To make cannabis retailing more accessible to Nunavut's business community, amendments to the territory's Cannabis Act are allowing businesses, like grocery stores and hotels, to sell cannabis products in places where minors also shop.
Bills for those changes passed in the Legislative Assembly during the recent winter sitting.
"The federal regulations are really strict around minors and we support that, but we wanted to give an opportunity for cannabis business to be successful in a small community," said Jo-Anne Falkiner, director of corporate finance with the territory's Department of Finance.
Until now, under Nunavut's Cannabis Act, cannabis products could only be sold in the territory online or through stand-alone retail locations where minors aren't allowed. But the territory doesn't have any of those stores yet.
Smaller retailers won't be able to advertise or display cannabis products, and packaging has to hide the product so that minors can't see it.
The government is hoping to start accepting applications from potential retailers by June.
Right now, the government is not planning to open its own stores.
We're not trying to encourage the use of cannabis but we're trying to move people from the illegal market.- Jo-Anne Falkiner, director of corporate finance, Nunavut Depart of Finance
"We're aiming toward the private sector managing retail for us," Falkiner said. "If we start inserting ourselves into the market, we're adding a lot of cost and not necessarily a lot of value."
Retailers will be able to set prices for their products. They will be regulated and inspected by the territory.
Illegal sales will be monitored
The legislation changes will also allow cannabis wholesalers that are federally licensed to register as suppliers for Nunavut.
Those companies will have to report all sales they make in the territory to the Nunavut Government. The Department of Finance can use those numbers to compare to sales from private stores, to make sure illegal cannabis isn't being sold by government-licensed retailers.
"We're not trying to encourage the use of cannabis but we're trying to move people from the illegal market," Falkiner said. "In this territory, there is a very strong illegal market and since legalization the prices have gone down. We are trying to figure out how to give people access to safer, legal cannabis."
The Cannabis Act does not allow communities to ban the use of legal cannabis the way alcohol can be prohibited.
But once a retailer makes an application, community consultations will be held to see whether residents will allow them to sell cannabis.
Under new amendments to the act, communities will have 60 days to decide on the opening of a first store, and 30 days for any additional stores.
The Department of Finance says it's currently working on creating a handbook for potential retailers.