Wondering how it’s going to work when cannabis is legalized on October 17? Wonder no more. Here’s what you need to know about buying cannabis in the NWT.
The territorial government briefed politicians and the media about cannabis sales on October 10, a week ahead of legalization across Canada.
Officials walked through where you can buy cannabis, what will be available, how much it will cost, and even how to apply if you want to open your own store.
This page is all about buying (and selling) cannabis. If you’re looking for just the basics about legal cannabis – things like where it’s legal to smoke, how much you can possess in public and so on – try this link instead.
If you’re wondering how to deal with a problem or pursue a complaint once cannabis is legal, there’s a story here that can help.
On October 17, where can I buy cannabis?
As soon as cannabis is legalized on Wednesday, October 17, you will be able to find cannabis for purchase in Yellowknife’s uptown liquor store and at the liquor stores in Hay River, Fort Smith, Fort Simpson, and Norman Wells.
You will be able to buy cannabis online through a website launched by the newly renamed NWT Liquor and Cannabis Commission. To be very clear: it’s illegal for companies based outside the NWT to ship cannabis to you inside the NWT. If you’re in the NWT and ordering online, this is the only place you can do it. You don’t have a (legal) choice.
The website will let you buy up to 30g at a time (which is the legal possession limit). The website will provide a standard description of each product, the territory said, including THC, CBD and so on.
The territorial government says there won’t be any in-store sales in Inuvik to begin with, as “the liquor vendor in Inuvik has indicated that they do not wish to sell cannabis.” The territory will try to find someone else in Inuvik to take on that role, a process that will begin “over the winter.”
Who are the NWT’s suppliers?
The territory will be supplied by High Park (a subsidiary of Tilray), Canopy Growth, and Aurora Cannabis. Pricing has been obtained for about 100 different products – things like blends and package sizes – and the territory will monitor what sells well, and listen to feedback, to gradually tweak what’s available.
Finance Minister Robert C McLeod said “much work” went into meeting with suppliers and ensuring they met the territory’s criteria. The territory has purchased “about 30 kilos” ready for October 17.
The territory does say it expects supply to be “an issue” at the start, as has been forecast across Canada. The territorial government said it would work with other suppliers “as needed” until supply stabilizes.
Not all stores in the NWT will carry the exact same range of products.
How much am I going to pay?
At the low end, you can expect to pay around $8.21 per gram according to a territorial government briefing note issued on Wednesday. Premium cannabis will retail for up to $14.55 per gram. Prices are subject to slight change from store to store but the territory promised “similar pricing for all retail vendors.”
THC levels range from 14 percent to 20 percent in regular blends, and 20 percent to 25 percent in premium blends.
Packages will be available in 1g, 3.5g and 7g sizes. The territory thinks 3.5g will be the most popular.
If you’re ordering online, only the High Park products will be available and you will pay standard Canada Post shipping rates to have them delivered.
RJ Simpson, MLA for Hay River North, asked in a briefing on Wednesday how the prices compare to current street prices. David Stewart, deputy minister of the Department of Finance, replied the territory had been advised prices were “quite competitive.” Stewart said federal advice suggested prices under $10 per gram would be likely to help combat the illegal market.
Cabin Radio obviously has no idea about this but has heard from friends that $8-$10 is about right compared to current, illegal, pricing – though bulk prices are cheaper.
I want to open a cannabis store
Cannabis is only being sold through liquor stores where supply is controlled by the NWT Liquor and Cannabis Commission for the time being. However, a process does now exist for private vendors to request permission to open a store.
“A key element … is the process related to entities that want to become cannabis vendors,” said Stewart.
“We have produced an information guide … for potential parties that might be interested in becoming a vendor, that describes the application process [and] gives some information to help applicants make business decisions.”
In a nutshell, if you want to become a vendor, you can provide an expression of interest which is then taken out for a community engagement session to gauge local interest and demand.
There will then be a public request for proposals so – importantly – even if you are the first one to come forward, the bidding process to run a store will be open to anyone.
Potential operators will be security screened, which means background checks not just for the applicant but for family members, too. A full application would then be reviewed before tentative approval and – eventually, once ready to go – an inspection of the store.
Wait, do the medical cannabis rules change?
No. The GNWT says that remains a federal responsibility and is not affected by anything the territory does.
A November 2017 territorial government document states: “Medical cannabis can only be purchased from federally licensed producers (online or over the phone) and delivered by secure mail. Medical cannabis will continue to be the responsibility of the federal government, and the GNWT will not have a role in its regulation.”
Interestingly, the territory said sales would be monitored to help discern where illegal suppliers may still be operating. For example, Stewart said, if sales in Norman Wells – used as an arbitrary example – are unusually low compared to other communities, the territory would “take a look at what’s going on there.”
We were asked an excellent question about the rules on crossing the territorial border with cannabis. According to the territorial government’s website: “When travelling to the NWT from other provinces or territories, tourists [and residents] may not carry more than the legal personal limit of 30 grams established by the federal Cannabis Act.”