Nunavut governments looks to fine tune its cannabis act this sitting

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Nunavut's Legislative Assembly will reconvene Tuesday in Iqaluit for nearly four weeks. During that time cabinet has plans to talk about cannabis regulation. 

Nunavut's Cannabis Act passed in June of 2018, before the federal government legalized cannabis that fall. But the act only allows for online sales of cannabis. 

This sitting, the government will introduce amendments to that legislation that would regulate the supply and sale of cannabis by in-store retailers. 

The Cannabis Act already allows the government to approve licences for retailers, and it did put out a request for "expressions of interest" from vendors and suppliers.   

But House leader and Minister Elisapee Sheutiapik said the government didn't have the time it needed to finish making plans for retail stores and suppliers before the federal government legalized cannabis in Canada.  

"There was a lot of fast tracking going on," Sheutiapik said. 

To make those regulations more specific the government will table Bill 42, an Act to Amend the Cannabis Act, this sitting.

"We were not ready to decide at that time, or have enough information whether or not Nunavut would be ready then to have retail," she said. "Now this act will allow potentially ... for licensed cannabis retail locations."

Nunavut has some of the highest rates of cannabis use in Canada. 

During the fall sitting, Finance Minister George Hickes, who oversees Nunavut's cannabis commission, said the government won't be able to reduce black market sales of cannabis through its own legal sales if it continues to rely on internet retailers alone.  

The territorial government's annual operations and maintenance budget is also coming out this week. On Wednesday, Hickes will table the budget for 2020-21, following a media lock up with reporters and speech in the assembly chambers on government spending priorities. 

Last year the territory planned for a $2.2 billion budget and projected a deficit of $12 million, and put bulk amounts toward medical travel and addictions support. Last year Hickes said the government's $432 million debt will decrease this year, now that the construction of the new Iqaluit airport is complete.

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