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NWT bought cannabis based on 25 percent of us smoking it

Territorial government officials at a media briefing on cannabis in October 2018
Territorial government officials at a media briefing on cannabis in October 2018. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio

The territorial government based many of its cannabis forecasts on 25 percent of the NWT’s residents choosing to use the drug once it’s legal.

At a briefing for reporters on Wednesday, officials said they used that figure to calculate how much of the drug should be stockpiled and how much revenue the territory could expect to see from sales.

David Stewart, deputy minister of the Department of Finance, said: “We made the assumption of about 25 percent of the population consuming cannabis.

“If we did an estimate of one joint a day, that would be about 1,000 kilos over a year,” he continued.



“That said, the errors around that… it could be anywhere from 500 to 1,500, and the other variable is what share will be online.”

Stewart said he believes the territory will see “in the range of a couple of million dollars a year of revenue.”

Stewart earlier told MLAs the NWT has 30 kilos ready for sale next week when cannabis becomes legal, on October 17.

Nationwide survey

One reason cannabis consumption and revenues are incredibly difficult to forecast is the fact it’s currently illegal.



Almost any research into who buys or sells recreational cannabis, who consumes it, and current prices, requires someone, somewhere, admitting to an illegal activity.

More: Cabin Radio’s great big NWT cannabis buying FAQ

Some medical research into the effects of cannabis has been similarly hindered, and the territory’s new chief public health officer – Dr Kami Kandola – told journalists she expected to see the quality and quantity of such research improve once cannabis becomes legal.

However, Statistics Canada did conduct a nationwide survey this year attempting to measure levels of cannabis use.

In Yellowknife, where the population is around 20,000, Statistics Canada said roughly 4,300 people claimed to have used cannabis in a three-month period from April to June 2018.

That represents 26.8 percent of people aged 15 or older, which was the group surveyed. Based on those self-reported figures, the territory’s 25 percent estimate would be fractionally low – and that’s while the drug was still illegal – though the survey focused on Yellowknife and did not take into account the wider NWT.

The percentage reported by Statistics Canada for Yellowknife was the second-highest in Canada, behind only Iqaluit, which stood at 33 percent.

Statistics Canada explained this by stating: “With use being more common among the young and given that different regions of the country vary in their concentrations of youth, it is likely that at least some of the geographic variation in cannabis use prevalence is due to demographics, that is, the age profile of a region.

“This is particularly true of the territorial capitals where the populations tend to be considerably younger than in the rest of the country.”

An earlier territorial government study, dating to 2012, suggested up to 40 percent of residents aged 15 to 24 had used cannabis at least once in the past year.