Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Iqaluit September 04, 2018 - 8:10 am

Iqaluit city council braces for cannabis legalization

“I hope that we can start enforcing the current bylaws … so that people will take future bylaws more seriously”

Iqaluit city councillors are worried that many of the city’s residents may be unaware of the rules that will govern where legalized cannabis may be smoked. (PHOTO BY COURTNEY EDGAR)
Iqaluit city councillors are worried that many of the city’s residents may be unaware of the rules that will govern where legalized cannabis may be smoked. (PHOTO BY COURTNEY EDGAR)

Starting Oct. 17, Iqaluit residents will be able to lawfully light up a joint at home to celebrate the legalization of cannabis. But if residents toke at school or work, or at the hospital or city hall, they could land in trouble.

Smoking cannabis will be banned from any place where smoking cigarettes is forbidden. And there will be additional limits.

Yet, with just six weeks to go before legalization, many residents may be unaware of these rules. That was a source of concern at Iqaluit city council’s last meeting, on Tuesday, Aug. 28.

The City of Iqaluit’s administration also remains in the dark about some details, such as how much revenue it will receive from the territory from cannabis sales.

The city should be leading a public awareness campaign about the restrictions on legal cannabis, said Coun. Kyle Sheppard.

“We spoke about the upcoming legislation a couple months ago and have done nothing since, or very little, as a council. Council itself has not provided any counsel,” he said.

“We need to make sure that there are spaces available for people to consume, while also managing to prevent exposure in other areas.”

Nunavut’s Bill 7, passed in June, prohibits smoking cannabis at arenas and recreational centres, or at any public gathering. Those caught could face a fine of between $200 and $2,000. As well, you could be arrested if it is necessary to prove your identity, or to secure and preserve evidence or prevent other contraventions.

As with smoking cigarettes, you won’t be allowed to smoke cannabis within three metres of the entrance to a building that’s open to the public, such as an office or store.

Smoking pot is also prohibited inside a home, if it can be seen or smelled from another dwelling.

Even the outdoors is not going to be a pot-smoking free-for-all: if you toke on a playground, at a parade or at a music festival, you could also face a penalty.

And smoking weed will be forbidden inside almost any public space where goods and services are sold. The one exception would be if a cannabis lounge or cannabis retail store opens.

However, Mayor Madeleine Redfern says that “there is commitment (from the Government of Nunavut) at this point in time that there will not be the establishment of cannabis lounges or stores for the first year.”

That means that the only legal means of distribution, at least at first, will be through orders delivered by mail.

Nunavut’s Cannabis Act sets out steeper fines for distributing, selling or importing illicit pot, as well as carrying, storing and sharing with people who are intoxicated. Individuals could pay $500 to $25,000 for these offences and face six months in jail for a first offence.

Repeat offenders would face fines from $1,000 to $50,000 and imprisonment.

As well, the federal cannabis law introduces a new offence of selling or giving cannabis to youth, which comes with a penalty of up to 14 years in prison. Nunavut has set its minimum age for possessing or consuming cannabis at 19.

Coun. Jason Rochon said he’s heard concerns from Iqaluit residents that cigarette smokers already don’t obey smoking bylaws. He warned that since, in his view, the city currently isn’t doing enough to enforce smoking bylaws, cannabis smokers may feel comfortable breaking the rules.

“I hope that we can start enforcing the current bylaws when it comes to smoking, so that people will take future bylaws more seriously,” Rochon said.

It isn’t only the bylaw-makers who will have extra work cut out for them over the next few months—so will the bylaw-enforcers

Kevin Sloboda, Iqaluit’s chief municipal enforcement officer, told city council that the legalization of cannabis is going to mean extra work for his department. It currently has five staff, including himself and one part-timer. Trying to predict how much their workload will increase is difficult but scheduling will have to be adjusted, he said.

“The officers respond to all sorts of other complaints on top of this, so it will be an added responsibility that will tie the members up more and more,” Sloboda said.

“It will definitely place some strain on the department and our resources,” he said.

The municipal officers, Sloboda says, will need to purchase equipment for roadside cannabis testing.

However, Sheppard said that although the federal government had just approved a roadside testing device on Tuesday, “there is early indication that it will not work below four degrees Celsius.” This would prove a problem for Iqaluit, since it would only work for about four months a year.

These enforcement challenges will cost money to solve. And right now, it remains unclear how much the city will receive from the territory’s share of cannabis taxes.

The Government of Nunavut will receive 75 per cent of the territory’s cannabis sales tax, with 25 per cent going to the federal government. It’s understood that the territory will share some of its funds with municipalities, said Redfern, who is president of the Nunavut Association of Municipalities.

That organization is planning discussions with the GN to find out how much money the municipalities will receive.

“Given that we’re six weeks out from legalization … there’s been radio silence from all levels of government about how this is going to roll out,” Sheppard said.

“I think we need to take it upon ourselves to have a communication blast over the next six weeks … so we’re not left with parades of weed down our streets.”

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(12) Comments:

#1. Posted by iToke on September 04, 2018

It’s sad for the poor city, Iqaluit is disorganized as usual and legalization is really bringing that fact to the fore.

Don’t you think?

What better way to counter this than to spread a fear and self pity campaign through the local media.

#2. Posted by eskipothead on September 04, 2018

How can revenue be expected if the GN will not allow distribution centres?  We need better leaders that are not afraid of change!  We can be responsible like there are responsible drinkers.  Useless to have no dispensary and expect revenue!  Are you going to ask the southern online companies to give the GN a rebate of some sort?

#3. Posted by Smokey the bare on September 04, 2018

#2 - pretty sure the gn will be charging some surcharge or import fees on top of the online sellers price.

#4. Posted by Observer on September 04, 2018

I can see it now a territory in full disarray now stoned to boot…just ridiculous what is happening to Canada. Nunavut is definately not ready for canabis regulation

#5. Posted by Paul Murphy on September 04, 2018

What a crock of horse dung. This hamlet can’t enforce the no smoking rules as it is.  What is the Mayor going to do when people are standing outside the stores and offices smoking up?  By law doesn’t touch them. The businesses or the office managers don’t do anything about their own employees and certainly the WSSC who instigated this law in the first place doesn’t take responsibility for enforcing it.And when a non smoking member of the public asks the people to move, they are given the finger and/or told to eff off.

Or in the case of the employees at the federal offices in the big yellow building, you are laughed at.

Sad sad place this hamlet.

#6. Posted by Paul Murphy on September 04, 2018

three (3) meters???  I don’t think anyone on hamlet council or in hamlet administration knows what 3 meters really is.
Let me inform you. Go to northmart and stand within 10 feet of the doors and tell me you won’t or don’t inhale second hand smoke.

#7. Posted by iToke on September 04, 2018

#4 Despite your intuitions, I predict the greatest impact of cannabis legalization will be increased tax revenue, cheaper cannabis, and even a few new jobs.

Otherwise, the sky is not likely to fall.

Or, perhaps you have some evidence to the contrary?

#8. Posted by Cheech on September 04, 2018

Why is everyone so worried?  I’d rather this then drink alcohol, rather be at home with my other half and be high watching funny movies and not get into a drunken rage (which Nunavut sees a ton of).  My biggest worry while high on “miluch” is dunking my chocolate chip cookie in my orange juice.  You “non-smokers”, if it’s not for you then it’s not for you and that’s ok, if I want it and I don’t hurt anyone then that’s ok too.  Like I said I’d rather be home chilling out watching and munching then be at the drunk tank.

#9. Posted by The sky is falling! on September 04, 2018

Reefer madness has begun.  If common sense were to prevail here one would realize that people stand outside buildings now and smoke cigarettes and pot and nothing is done.  What’s the difference if it is legalized? 

Iqaluit is loosing out on big money by not becoming a distributor or allowing private companies to open and taxing them.  There is an interesting documentary about legislation in Colorado, the governor was totally against it.  One year later he had only good things to say about legal marijuana, his state received so much revenue from it they had enough money for road repair and other big infrastructure projects.  Maybe this city has enough money and has no need for road and infrastructure improvements.

#10. Posted by Zombies walking dead on September 05, 2018

Welcome to Nunavut all will be walking dead high on marijuana smoke and non smokers will be stoned with second hand smoke. GN is clearly not thinking and our politicians are focusing on revenue but not the health and well-being of Nunavimmuit. Why a pity man.
Truley you could not implement non smoking police properly as #5 correctly said. We have to pass through smokers at the front doors of every GN establishment and no one does anything. Now this smoke la la la la ?

#11. Posted by Harry on September 06, 2018

I can’t stand it when we are walking into Frobisher or other stores and public places and someone is smoking up, the stench is terrible! Especially when you have kids with you we really don’t want them exposed to that crap!
If you are going to smoke up do it away from public places and near entrances.
Even a small amount can damage a child’s developing mind, have some decency and smoke up somewhere else.

#12. Posted by TGIF! on September 07, 2018

I am going to get so high tonight, I can’t wait.

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