Nunavut cannabis survey results won’t be released prior to election

But finance minister says report will go to next government


Baker Lake MLA Simeon Mikkungwak asks questions about Nunavut's yet-to-be-written legislation on legal marijuana, at Nunavut's legislature Sept. 14. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)

Baker Lake MLA Simeon Mikkungwak asks questions about Nunavut’s yet-to-be-written legislation on legal marijuana, at Nunavut’s legislature Sept. 14. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)

There is just one week left for Nunavut residents to fill out a Government of Nunavut survey on cannabis legalization, and Baker Lake MLA Simeon Mikkungwak is encouraging his constituents to complete it.

“I encourage my constituents in Baker Lake to express their views,” Mikkungwak said Sept 14 in the Nunavut Legislature.

The 26-question survey, which closes Sept. 22, attracted about 1,000 responses in the first week it was released, Finance Minister Keith Peterson told MLAs.

The survey is the product of a GN working group that is studying ways of regulating the distribution of cannabis in the territory, and it’s the first step in promised consultation on the issue.

But the outgoing Nunavut government will not release survey results prior to the Oct. 30 territorial election, and Peterson is unable to say what the new government will do.

“Can the minister assure us that the results of the government’s survey on cannabis legalization will be publicly released before the next assembly takes office?” Mikkungwak asked Peterson.

“I can’t assure Mr. Mikkungwak with that,” Peterson said. But, a report will be made and presented to the next government, he said.

“Then it will be up to them to move fairly quickly,” Peterson said.

The territorial election will slow down the legislative process for cannabis legalization in Nunavut, which is already on a tight timeline.

“After this sitting there are only two other sittings where it will be possible to pass legislation in time for July 1, 2018. The pressure is on us and the next government,” Peterson said.

Besides surveying public opinion in the territory on the federal government’s plan to legalize cannabis in Canada, the survey asks residents for feedback on the legal age for marijuana use, its use in public spaces and whether it should be ordered from out of the territory.

But the survey does not ask communities if they would like to regulate cannabis like they currently do for alcohol, said Peterson, when asked by Mikkungwak.

It’s not the first time Mikkungwak has asked this question.

“As you may notice, Mr. Speaker, we didn’t include that question on the survey,” Peterson said.

“I’m not a person in favour of prohibition, or restricting people from making responsible choices and decisions. This is a federal legislation to legalize cannabis,” Peterson said. And with easy online access to the substance, he said regulations will be difficult to enforce.

“Even if you did prohibit it or restrict it, people are going to get it one way or the other, and we don’t want to be forcing people into the hands of drug dealers.”

Legislation passed this winter under the Unlawful Property Forfeiture Act will allow the GN to crack down on dealers and bootleggers.

“We will be actively going after drug dealers and bootleggers in Nunavut who prey on people in the communities when they’re selling them illegal drugs and alcohol,” Peterson said.

He also said Sept. 12, that there are no plans right now to sell legal cannabis at Iqaluit’s new beer and wine store.

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