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Absence of cannabis outlets in Nunavut 'unacceptable,' Arreak-Lightstone asserts

More than a year after cannabis was legalized in Canada, Nunavut still has no retail outlets within the territory and that's 'unacceptable,' Iqaluit-Manirajak MLA Adam Lightstone said in the legislative assembly Tuesday.

Cannabis sales through the black market continue to far outpace legal purchases, potentially "siphoning out millions of dollars every year out of the territory," says MLA Adam Arreak-Lightstone, who wants retail outlets established in Nunavut soon. Pixabay photo

"Right now, Nunavut is reliant on the black market to supply cannabis sales in the territory. With the amount of cannabis consumption in the territory and the fact that all that money is being funnelled out, siphoned out by the black market, I find that unacceptable," Arreak-Lightstone said. "I believe that every other jurisdiction has been able to figure this out but us. I believe it is time that our government starts putting merit to its words. I believe it’s time for the government to stand up and get some work done on this front and start producing regulations that will allow the private market or the public sector to step up and open up some alternative options including over-the-counter sales."

Finance Minister George Hickes, who oversees the alcohol and cannabis sales file, acknowledged that GN's share of revenue from legal online cannabis purchases have been low – just $12,000 between the end of March and now.

That's despite the GN lowering its markup on dried cannabis to $1 per gram from $4 per gram in July.

Hickes warned that "there are unsafe materials being put in illicit black market cannabis," which is why Nunavummiut should choose legal options.

However, the minister still wouldn't provide a timeline of when cannabis retail outlets will be a reality in the territory.

"I would love to get this done tomorrow, but I also want to make sure it’s done properly," said Hickes. "My entire goal, and I know the staff’s goal in these regulations, is to make sure it’s done right. So, we don’t have to keep going back and forth (or put) unforeseen challenges in front of our potential retailers or licensees."