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GN must crack illicit cannabis market

Where there's smoke, there's not always fire, but someone will have to light a fire under the seat of the Government of Nunavut to sort out cannabis sales in the territory.

Since cannabis went legal in October of 2018, the GN has hardly scratched the surface of the illicit market and has created an atmosphere where illegal sales are reigning supreme over the safer and legal means of purchasing.

Currently, the only legal option Nunavummiut have for purchasing their cannabis is through approved online retailers but there are limitations here.

There are shipping costs to be taken into account but ordering cannabis over the Internet itself is a barrier for many.

It's one thing to be waiting for a sweater ordered online but for purchasers looking for a small amount of cannabis, going through the hassle of setting up an account and waiting days or weeks for one's order to arrive might be too much to ask. And though cannabis is now legal not everyone is comfortable tying personal information, including credit cards and Paypal accounts, to their cannabis purchases.

Many people will continue purchasing weed from their local dealer rather than go through all that.

The government's numbers speak for themselves.

The GN pulled in just $12,000 in online sales between the end of March and the beginning of November this year.

It isn't as if people are not consuming cannabis. In 2018, Stats Canada released a report that showed Nunavut has the highest rate of cannabis use in the country.

This is especially true in Iqaluit, where it was found that 33 per cent of those surveyed used cannabis in the past three months. Nationally the average percentage of use is around half of that.

Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Lightstone has come forward in the legislative assembly calling the government's lack of action on community storefronts "unacceptable."

The minister of finance, George Hickes, who is in charge of regulating cannabis and alcohol, has acknowledged the short-comings of the current system and noted his desire to create stores.

Hickes says he and his staff are working towards a solution, but the longer residents wait, the deeper the idea that the government can't deliver the goods is ingrained into people's minds.

The government has taken some steps to create incentives for buyers, including reducing the government's profits of $4 per gram to $1, but it clearly isn't enough.

There is a lot of business the government should be trying to capture but also allowing residents to capture as well. In a territory starving for business opportunities and jobs, especially smaller communities, local cannabis storefronts will kill two birds with one stone.
They will compete – providing the price is right – directly with the illicit drug trade while providing a trade for potential retailers.

Not all communities are going to want cannabis stores so where these stores will ultimately end up must be decided by the communities themselves. But it should be noted, where there would be a store, someone looking for a bit of cannabis would no longer be put in a situation where his dealer is also pushing bootlegged alcohol or other harmful substances in their face.

Providing brick and mortar shops selling cannabis that has been produced to a high and regulated standard can only serve the objectives of the GN by protecting its citizens from black market dealers while providing an opportunity for legitimate retailers.