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With marijuana legalization coming into effect in one week, administrators across the NWT took special interest in the issue during a recent conference.

About 50 senior administrative officers and band managers from all 33 communities attended the Local Government Administrators (LGANT) of the NWT annual conference and AGM. All conference participants attended the Marijuana Legalization Panel, moderated by  Sandra Mackenzie, a labour and litigation lawyer with Lawson and Lundell LP.

The hour-long session focused on three different areas where marijuana legalization could impact communities – police enforcement, workplace safety procedures and human rights.

“A lot of people have questions about this because it could impact the number of bylaw officers that will be needed to enforce the rules,” she told the audience. “It could also impact zoning when thinking about a cannabis store and where it could be.”

RCMP G Division Sgt. Todd Scaplen discussed the implication of legalization on police enforcement and how the drug will be detected in cases of impaired driving. He said the legalization won’t change how impaired driving is dealt with, but there are some changes that should be expected, including the tools police will have at their disposal.

Raegan Mager, human rights officer with NWT Human Rights Commission, discussed how employers may have to differ in meeting the NWT Human Rights Act and accommodating marijuana use as it applies to different disabilities or problems with addictions. One audience member asked if an employee has a duty to disclose their prescription to an employer once they get a marijuana prescription.

“They have a duty yes and should be well reflected in the policies,” Mager said.

One thing that became apparent through the panel presentation is that experience with cannabis will be very different between communities as it comes to where and how it is purchased, how it is enforced, and how it will be handled in the workplace. Issues raised by some participants included the lack of policing entirely in some communities, such as in Tsiigehtchic.

Larry Dalley, senior administrator of the community asked Scaplen how the product was going to be policed, but he feels he didn’t get the answer he was looking for.

“Absolutely policing, because there is none” said Dalley, when asked what the biggest interest he has with the subject. “We don’t have a detachment in  Tsiigehtchic. Usually they come up on day patrol maybe twice a month. If Tsiigehtchic goes with unrestricted cannabis in the community, as opposed to restricted or dry, in my opinion there will be an increased influx of cannabis.”

Alayna Ward, executive director of LGANT, said administrators and members have been increasingly questioning how legalization will impact their communities over the past year. Since last year’s conference, it was decided to have a panel on marijuana legalization to help them deal with the new federal law coming into effect.

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Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. A through and through "County boy" from Prince Edward County, Ont., Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin...

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