GUEST COMMENT: Know where you’re going and the rules

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by Norman Yakeleya

There is a Chinese saying: may you live in interesting times and it certainly resonates with the coming of the cannabis legalization in Canada and the NWT. Ottawa is moving forward in its campaign promise and it going forward with the legalization of “recreational use of cannabis”, also commonly known as marijuana or pot or weed.

Our government in the North is responding to the grand-daddy of government of the land through its constitutional framework as per the constitution of Canada relationships.

Norman Yakeleya is a former MLA for the Sahtu region and now owns NSY Consulting Ltd., a private consulting firm in Yellowknife.

We have before us Bill 6 in its second reading and the committees recently toured communities on feedback to this marijuana’s bill, as proposed by the government.

Interesting is not the word to read the final report and recommendations for changes if any and how the final bill be voted on and become law on recreational marijuana use.

Now the bill itself is complicated and a good read for those legalistic minds and knowing what is what. It’s like driving Highway 401 in Ontario or mapping out a long ago traditional trail use by our ancestors. You got to know where you are going and what are the rules to keep you in line with the regulations.

For example, the biggest benefits will be revenues going to both governments and not a single drop will go to Aboriginal governments.

The federal government will be the driver in the weed bus and our passengers will be the provincial and territorial governments and sadly, the Aboriginal governments will run alongside the bus asking or begging for a ride on the revenue stream. Now there is some movement to get in the bus but the doors are closed and the gears are in place and the road of cling cling is paved with good intentions.

The economic opportunities are endless and the Sahtu chiefs wants a piece of the revenue transaction by asking the government to be the distributor of marijuana. Can you imagine what the economists would say on the amount that can be generated only in the Sahtu and elsewhere. We the Aboriginal governments, need an agreement like our GNWT has with Ottawa and not take “we will get it to later”. Do you how hard it is to put the genie back in the bottle?

Maybe a referendum may clear up some issues such as “sharing protocol on howwe the people will share revenue or put some percentage into educational and support programs. Maybe have the region be specifically licensed to supply the North and trained people to be growers, I think the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment must have SEED programs in each of the regions.

Can the municipalities be the distributor or the band councils? Do you know how much it cost to fly in your mail order weed and saving on the infrastructure?

Medical marijuana is regulated by Ottawa and can we not have our plants be cultivated and supply the medical marijuana users.

It’s time both the federal and territorial governments released the joint hold of the Aboriginal governments and allow a piece of the revenue sharing on this popular commodity that is going to revolutionize the North and Canada.

Do the numbers and see how many people will buy the proposed amount, as stated in the bill. We can buy 30 grams and grow up to four plants per household. How many people will try it or at least are smoking it today? Calculate the potential revenue the government will take in. Do a cost and benefit analysis and just imagine the long run of this business.

In the United States, this is a $70 billion business and continues to grow and we haven’t yet seen the plateau.

Now imagine the NWT and study the communities profile from the GNWT website and figure those 19 years and over that can purchase at easily $600 per 30 grams. The cost of four plants and all the equipment needed to grow good marijuana and the cost of power will certainly increase.

In closing, an awesome book to inform yourself is The Pot Book; A Complete Guide to Cannabis. Its role in Medicine, Politics, science and Culture. It’s written by medical doctors, PhDs and scientists.

May the legalization of cannabis in the North bear fruits of good fortune and start to educate the youth and families.