Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavik October 12, 2017 - 1:10 pm

Nunavik leaders say cannabis legalization poses public safety concerns

"Our goal is to be adequately prepared when the law becomes effective"

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
Kativik Regional Government and Kativik Regional Police Force representatives took part in a Sept. 29 consultation in Quebec City focused on how Indigenous communities and regions can prepare for new legislation which will allow for the legal possession and recreational use of marijuana. (PHOTO COURTESY OF KRPF)
Kativik Regional Government and Kativik Regional Police Force representatives took part in a Sept. 29 consultation in Quebec City focused on how Indigenous communities and regions can prepare for new legislation which will allow for the legal possession and recreational use of marijuana. (PHOTO COURTESY OF KRPF)

Nunavik leaders say they’ll face a number of challenges dealing with cannabis use in the region after recreational possession and cultivation is legalized in 2018.

The federal government’s Cannabis Act, or Bill C-45, would create a framework for the legal production, distribution, sale and possession of marijuana across Canada, set to become law on July 1, 2018.

The federal legislation sets 18 as the minimum age for cannabis possession, but territories and provinces may set a higher minimum age through regulation, and territorial, provincial and municipal governments may decide how and where individual consumers can buy it and smoke it.

Last month, the Quebec government told Radio-Canada that it will set 18 as the minimum age for possession. The Ontario government has already announced it will set a minimum age of 19.

The Quebec government has yet to say how it will control and distribute cannabis in the province, but Radio-Canada has reported that marijuana will likely be managed by Quebec’s liquor board, the Société des alcools du Québec—an agency that does not operate in Nunavik.

The province plans to introduce its own legislation to regulate cannabis in the National Assembly this fall.

Under the new federal legislation, Canadians would be be allowed to possess 30 grams of marijuana at a time, or to cultivate a maximum of four plants.

What’s unclear is how the new legislation will change access in the Nunavik region.

Executives of the Kativik Regional Government and Kativik Regional Police Force took part in a consultation between Indigenous groups and the Quebec government late last month to address the regulation of cannabis in the region’s 14 communities.

Nunavik’s leaders say there are “numerous” and “complex” challenges associated with the new legislation, including health and public safety concerns.

“Our goal is to be adequately prepared when the law becomes effective next year,” said KRPF police chief Michel Martin in an Oct. 11 release.

“Significant prevention work will need to be done to ensure the security of Nunavimmiut and to minimize the impacts on public safety.”

But Nunavik police haven’t specified what those public safety concerns are.

In the first four months of 2017, the KRPF seized almost 12 kilograms of marijuana or hash in the region—with a street value of about $580,000—including marijuana that was seized during Canada Post operations.

Nunavimmiut pay $50 for a gram of marijuana in the region, compared to about $12 a gram in a southern city like Montreal. Most of that marijuana is thought to arrive in Nunavik by plane.

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