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Iqaluit deputy mayor doubts that legal pot is making a dent in street sales

Iqaluit's deputy mayor is skeptical that federally-regulated marijuana is making much of a dent in the underground market.

Ordering legal marijuana online has cost Nunavummiut $14-$16 per gram from Oct. 17 through December, according to the Department of Finance.
Pixabay photo

"Since the legalization of cannabis, I don't think there's been a significant decrease in the young men standing out front of our stores selling cannabis to people in this town. I wonder what the strategy is for the RCMP here for curbing that," Romeyn Stevenson said during the City of Iqaluit council meeting on Jan. 22.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Garfield Elliott, who appeared as a delegate during the meeting, declined to address the issue publicly. Elliott said he was willing to meet with councillors privately to discuss it.

"There is work being done, but for those reasons I'm not able to speak publicly about what is being done," Elliott said.

Coun. Jason Rochon invited Elliott back for a future in-camera meeting. Elliott accepted.

Nunavut RCMP laid only five cannabis-related charges between Oct. 17, when marijuana was legalized, through Jan. 17. That's compared to 12 cannabis-related charges during the same timeframe a year earlier, before legalization. The single biggest difference revolved around possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana, which dropped from six charges prior to legalization to zero afterwards. Charges for trafficking of various volumes differed little.

"Unfortunately for us there is not a large enough data set to make proper comparisons at this point, and there is not enough data yet for us to make a statement on the impacts," stated RCMP Const. Danielle Pollock.

Stevenson later told Nunavut News that he thinks the local marijuana market is still thriving due to convenience.

"I would assume it's the access to a credit card, and (having) immediate access (from a local dealer) versus waiting a week while you order it online from Ontario," Stevenson said. "If there was a store (in Iqaluit), it might curb the illegal market."

The Government of Nunavut hasn't yet consulted with Iqaluit city council about establishing a cannabis store, Stevenson added.

That's because a timeline for licensing retail stores in the territory hasn't yet been determined, according to Dan Young, the GN's director of Nunavut Liquor and Cannabis.

"However it's expected that the framework for the licensing regime will be established in the near future," Young stated.

- with files from Michele LeTourneau

Fact file:
Cannabis considerations
- $14-16 –average price per legal gram of marijuana in Nunavut through the end of December.
- $9.70 – average price per legal gram across Canada, according to crowd-sourced data from Statistics Canada
- $20-$30 – average price per gram on the streets of Iqaluit. More in smaller communities.
- 1,147 – number of orders Nunavummiut placed from Oct. 17 to Dec. 31 with, the GN's officially-sanctioned retailer. Orders represented 4.2 kilograms of cannabis.
- $17,000 – earnings turned over to Nunavut Liquor and Cannabis Commission on $42,000 in sales. Cannabis taxes will also go to Government of Nunavut.
- Highlands Bud – the most popular legal product among Nunavut customers, as sold by Tweed. It's described on Tweed's website as an "indica-dominant THC strain (of) Afghan ancestry and dense, trichome-rich flowers."