Northwest Territories politicians will visit Yellowknife and Inuvik high schools as they tour the territory gathering feedback on proposed cannabis legislation.
Two groups of MLAs will spread out across the NWT in late April and early May, visiting a range of communities for public feedback sessions aimed at improving the territory’s draft cannabis laws.
“We can’t decide not to legalize cannabis. We don’t have a choice to make there,” said Julie Green, MLA for Yellowknife Centre, who will join a group visiting South Slave and Dehcho communities.
“We’re talking about implementation – how to do it in a way that protects your interests, your safety, the economy. How can we do this in a way that best meets your concerns?”
Issues expected to be raised at community meetings include areas such as legislation on driving while high.
“There are strict prohibitions about driving under the influence of cannabis, but there’s nothing about driving ATVs,” said Green. “That’s the kind of gap we will have questions about and we think other people will have questions about as well.”
Kieron Testart, MLA for Yellowknife’s Kam Lake, will take a group of his peers north to visit Sahtu and Beaufort Delta communities.
“We’re working on scheduling consultations with students at Yellowknife and Inuvik high schools,” said Testart.
“We talk a lot about how young people need to be protected from cannabis consumption and that’s a real policy objective for legalizing and regulating the substance.
“So if we’re going to pass legislation designed to protect children and young people, we’d better talk to young people.”
Green added: “There’s a high level of interest about the impact on youth.”
Cannabis public meeting dates
Fort McPherson Community Centre, 6:30pm
Fort Resolution Antoine Beaulieu Memorial Hall, 3:30pm
Tsiigehtchic Gymnasium, 12pm
Fort Providence Community Hall, 7pm
Délı̨nę Sahcho Cultural Centre, 7pm
Łutsel K’e Zah Lockhart Hall, 11am
Behchokö Sportsplex, 12pm
Gamètì Community Hall, 3pm
Fort Liard Community Hall, 3pm
Inuvik Midnight Sun Complex, 7pm
Sambaa K’e Details to be confirmed
Ulukhaktok Community Hall, 11:30am
Tuktoyaktuk Kitti Hall, 12pm
Hay River Recreation Centre, 7pm
Both groups are working to a tight timeline. The federal government intends for Canadians to be smoking cannabis legally by the end of the summer; MLAs must report back to the legislature by mid-May with the aim of finalizing legislation in July.
“It’s going to take a lot of work and an unprecedented amount of travel,” said Testart.
Community sessions will be streamed on the legislature’s website and its social channels. Feedback left online by residents will be monitored by MLAs and their staff, while written feedback can be provided by email or letter until May 4 at 5pm.