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Everything you need to know about legal cannabis in the Northwest Territories

In less than a week, recreational cannabis will be legal across Canada for the first time. 

Here is a rundown of everything you need to know about legal cannabis in the Northwest Territories.

What are the age restrictions?

Like alcohol, the legal minimum age to buy, possess and use cannabis is 19.

Where can I buy it?

As of October 17, cannabis will be sold through liquor stores in Yellowknife, Hay River, Fort Smith, Fort Simpson and Norman Wells. If you live in Inuvik, you can buy cannabis through the online store, as the government is still working to find a retail distributor. The territory expects to begin that process this winter.

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What if my community doesn’t have a liquor store?

You can order it from another liquor store or cannabis store in the NWT. Similar to the mail order system currently used by the Liquor Commission for alcohol, the cannabis would be directly shipped to you.

How much will it cost?

The territorial government’s sample retail pricing ranges from $8.21 to $14.55 per gram. Cannabis will be sold in 1 gram, 3.5 gram and 7-gram packages.

Where is the cannabis coming from?

The Northwest Territories Liquor and Cannabis Commission (NTLCC) will be responsible for the distribution and sale of cannabis in the NWT. The cannabis suppliers for the Northwest Territories are High ParkCanopy Growth and Aurora Cannabis. Online sales will carry High Park products and will be subject to Canada Post shipping charges. Age verification will be required when you pick up cannabis from the post office. The territorial government has purchased about 30 kg of cannabis in preparation for October 17. They say they anticipate issues with the cannabis supply, at least initially.

What can I buy?

Whole flower (bud), oils, seeds and pre-rolls (joints). The Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels in regular blends will range from 14-20% where premium blends will range from 20-25%. The territorial government has said that consumer demand will dictate the market, so if there’s cannabis product you want that your local liquor store doesn’t carry, you can request it. Store operators can order the product from the NWT Liquor Commission, as long as it comes from one of the legal suppliers.

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What about edibles?

No, because edibles are still not legal for sale in Canada. The federal government says it will consider the regulation of edibles one year after legalization, so you should be able to buy edibles come October 2019.

Where can I use cannabis? 

You can smoke cannabis on private property and in some public spaces. Smoking cannabis is prohibited within 30 metres of playgrounds, fields, courts or other athletic activities, skateboard and bike parks, and public parks – when a public event is taking place. Smoking cannabis will be allowed any place you can smoke cigarettes, and banned in places where there are children, like schools. According to the territorial government’s website:

“Unless municipal governments introduce bylaws to expand on areas where smoking cannabis is prohibited, residents will be permitted to smoke cannabis on trails, roadways (when not operating or riding in a motor vehicle), and parks when not in use for a public event. Cannabis may be used within designated campsites as well.”

If you are a medical cannabis user, the same prohibitions and rules that apply to non-medicinal cannabis users will apply.

What if I rent?

If you rent your home, your landlord has the authority to make their property and premises smoke-free. A provision added to the Residential Tenancies Act states that if a tenancy agreement entered into before the day Bill 6 received assent (June 1, 2018) restricts the smoking of tobacco, then that also applies to cannabis. And yes, you can be evicted for smoking cannabis in a non-smoking unit. The GNWT states:

“If a tenant has repeatedly breached smoke-free rules contained in a tenancy agreement, and approaching the tenant directly has not resolved the issue, the landlord may give the tenant at least 10 days’ written notice to terminate the tenancy agreement. If the tenant refuses to leave, the landlord may make an application to a rental officer asking for an eviction order.”

Can I grow my own?

You can grow cannabis in your home if you are 19 or older, with a limit of four plants per household. Like smoking, growing cannabis is subject to rental agreements, as landlords have the right to make their properties cannabis-free.

How much cannabis can I carry?

You can carry a maximum of 30 grams of dried cannabis on your person. Below is a handy chart of the quantities equivalent to 1 gram of dried cannabis.

This table, taken from Schedule 3 of the federal Cannabis Act shows the amounts of other cannabis forms equal to 30 grams of dried cannabis.

Can I drive after using cannabis?

In Canada, it is a criminal offence to drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs, including cannabis. The Northwest Territories has zero tolerance for alcohol and drugs for drivers 21 and under, and some commercial drivers. After October 17 it will be an offence to drive with a certain level of THC in your system. The feds have proposed changes to the Criminal Code that will set limits on the amount of THC permitted in the system, penalties for being over the legal limit and when law enforcement can demand drug testing. Like alcohol, cannabis stored in a vehicle must be unopened and out of reach of the driver and passengers.

For more info on legal cannabis in the NWT, check out this list of frequently asked questions.

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