Nunavut’s Cannabis Act passes second reading
“This legislation is going to be made in Nunavut, through this house, by Nunavummiut for Nunavummiut.”
Nunavut-specific cannabis legislation is creeping closer to reality now that Bill 7, the Cannabis Act, has passed second reading, following a unanimous vote in the legislative assembly on Monday, June 4.
“Bill 7 is about recognizing that our government should have a say on how cannabis is controlled in our territory,” Finance Minister David Akeeagok said as he called to have the bill read for the second time.
After a bill passes second reading, it moves into a line-by-line review, to be done by Nunavut’s regular MLAs in the legislature’s committee of the whole. It must then receive third reading before becoming law.
Remarks by MLAs suggest that “made-in-Nunavut” legislation is a priority for both cabinet and regular members, so that the specific needs of Nunavummiut are recognized, should the federal government’s pending bill to legalize cannabis pass in the House of Commons this summer.
“It is obvious that in Nunavut cannabis is illegally brought in to the communities,” said Baker Lake MLA Simeon Mikkungwak. “If we don’t have legislation, then the federal legislation would be imposed on us.”
Bill 7 would see a new liquor and cannabis commission struck in Nunavut.
The bill would allow for online sales of cannabis, but it would restrict residents from growing marijuana plants in their homes. There would also be restrictions on how much cannabis a person could carry into the territory in their airline luggage.
The bill also prohibits use of cannabis around schools, playgrounds, health centres and “any other place where minors frequent,” Akeeagok said.
The GN has said in a position paper that it doesn’t plan to allow any stores to sell cannabis in the territory this year. Akeeagok said that could change in the future, to help promote economic development and job creation in Nunavut, but communities would be consulted before any store might open.
Akeeagok sold the bill as a way to protect the health and safety of Nunavummiut, especially minors; provide safe distribution of cannabis to adults; combat an illegal cannabis market; and increase awareness of cannabis related risks.
In March, Nunavut’s legislature passed Bill 3, the Cannabis Statutes Amendment Act, which amends other territorial laws. Among other things, it would ban smoking cannabis everywhere smoking tobacco is forbidden. The bill would also require that marijuana in a vehicle be kept in a sealed and out-of-reach container.
Police in Nunavut would be allowed to search vehicles and persons where cannabis is suspected.
Bill 3 would amend The Cities, Towns and Villages Act, the Motor Vehicles Act, the Liquor Act, the Marriage Act, the Pharmacy Act and the Tobacco Control Act.
“We want this bill to reflect in a balanced way what we heard from Nunavummiut during consultations,” Akeeagok said. “I look forward to reviewing it with members in detail.”
Earlier in the year, the GN held meetings across the territory to consult Nunavummiut on cannabis.
Prior to consultations, the government distributed a 10-page discussion paper on cannabis legalization.
The GN also ran a survey that showed three in four Nunavut residents support cannabis legalization.
It’s too soon to know how Nunavut will fit into Canada-wide cannabis taxation, but the GN will be keeping an eye on this as a source of revenue, Akeeagok said.
“We are one of the last province or territories drafting their legislation,” said Nunavut Premier Paul Quassa. “This legislation is going to be made in Nunavut, through this house, by Nunavummiut for Nunavummiut.”
Rankin Inlet North-Chesterfield Inlet MLA Cathy Towtongie said that while she does not support cannabis legalization, she does support measures to restrict youth from using the substance.