No records kept for pot group

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MLA calls lack documents ‘mind boggling,’ questions work carried out so far

Kieron Testart: MLA finds it ‘mind boggling’ no records kept by group studying legalization of marijuana.

A territorial government group studying marijuana legalization isn’t keeping records of its meetings and discussions, making it hard to assess its progress.

Last year the GNWT formed a working group with representatives from various departments to guide creation of marijuana legislation.

Yellowknifer requested the group’s meeting minutes, documents which would show when the group met, who attended meetings, what was discussed and decided.

“I have been advised that the working group for the legalization of cannabis doesn’t keep minutes of the meetings,” stated justice spokesperson Sue Glowach.

She later stated that’s because the group was “established informally” and like many internal committees of the government, keeps no written meeting minutes. The group has met five times, she stated.

“How are you going to work on this issue if you’re not keeping records? It’s mind boggling,” said Kam Lake MLA Kieron Testart on May 4.

Testart has questioned how much work the group has actually done.

The territorial government issued a news release last month that the group was working on the issue but gave no indication options it is considering or has ruled out.

“With the pending legalization of cannabis, it is important we consider the safety of all residents of the Northwest Territories,” stated Justice Minister Louis Sebert in the news release. “We will work to ensure that a safe supply of cannabis is available to our residents while keeping it out of the hands of our children and youth, and reduce the criminal element that comes with the illicit drug trade.”

The proposed federal legislation would give significant leeway to the territory to regulate marijuana distribution and sales. Those decisions could affect whether liquor or drug stores could be venues for marijuana sales.

The premier and ministers also have not commented beyond what Testart called the “canned” quote in a press release.

Glowach said the group won’t be making any decisions.

“Cabinet, and ultimately the legislative assembly, will make the decisions on how the GNWT will approach legalization in 2018,” she stated. “Those decisions will be informed by the work undertaken by the working group, by work underway in individual departments and agencies, and by the advice we receive from stakeholders and our residents in the forthcoming public engagement process.”

Testart remains frustrated.

“I’m not sure what the holdup is or why they’re being so defensive about this. My suspicion is the working group has not been working as effectively as they would have us believe,” Testart said.

The federal legislation still needs to pass Parliament. It is expected to come into force in July 2018, giving the territory just over a year to get its own laws and regulations into place.