This is page numbers 4103 - 4182 of the Hansard for the 18th Assembly, 3rd Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was going.

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Committee Motion 61-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 6.1 after subsection 5(6), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair, the federal government appointed a task force to study the legalization and regulation of cannabis, and that task force delivered a report in December of 2016. One of the recommendations of that task force was that there be no co-location of alcohol and cannabis sales, wherever possible. When co-location cannot be avoided, appropriate safeguards must be put in place.

Mr. Chair, this finding was based on the public engagement that the task force did with Canadians, and it came with the following rationale: "Given the wide use and availability of liquor stores, concerns were raised about product promotion and exposing a larger population to cannabis products should sales be co-located, as well as the impact on cannabis consumers who are trying to avoid alcohol. Many also noted that this approach could help mitigate co-use, given what we've heard about the risk of co-use on health and with alcohol, the exponential effect on impairment. In all of the US states that have legalized cannabis, there is a ban on the co-location of sales of cannabis and alcohol."

Mr. Chair, there are also some statistics provided that put this problem into perspective: 80 per cent of adult Canadians use alcohol, while only 11 per cent use cannabis. The Chief Medical Health Officers of Canada believe there is a risk of cannabis being introduced to a larger number of Canadians who otherwise might not bother using it because it will be readily available in the same space. What they argue is that the potential for increasing the rates of use and co-use run counter to public health objectives of harm-reduction and prevention, so preventing co-location is part of the precautionary approach to this issue.

As we know, the government is planning to use liquor stores to sell cannabis, and the liquor stores are located in six different NWT communities. Mr. Chair, only one of these communities could be described as small and remote, and that's Norman Wells, which has no regular road access and has fewer than a thousand people. All of the other liquor stores are in larger communities, in which there is a commercial rent market, so I do believe that it's possible to direct vendors to create separate retail spaces for the two different products.

This is not a huge ask, Mr. Chair. This is a matter of renovating retail space and making room for two separate products. It's worth noting, as well, that cannabis will not require the kind of space that alcohol does. The product is small and light and will be available in infinitely fewer varieties than alcohol is, so we're not talking about having to have a large space, simply a separate space.

Most jurisdictions in in Canada have heeded the advice of the task force on co-location but not here, in the NWT. In our public hearings, we didn't hear from anyone who supported co-location. In fact, we heard the opposite. I want to draw your attention to the remarks by Florence Catholique of Lutselk'e, who is quoted in the Bill 6 report that we discussed yesterday, in which she said, "I totally disagree with having the cannabis sold to us at liquor stores. It's also very tempting to buy a bottle."

So those are the reasons that I am requesting Members support this motion to not allow co-location of cannabis and alcohol in the same retail space, and I look forward to your support. Thank you.

Committee Motion 61-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 6.1 after subsection 5(6), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Ms. Green. Next, we have Mr. Testart.

Committee Motion 61-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 6.1 after subsection 5(6), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'm pleased to support the motion moved by my honourable friend, the Member from Yellowknife Centre. One of the curious things about the government's plan to co-locate the sale of alcohol and cannabis came to me in a particularly clear way when the Cannabis Talk Kit was mailed out to every household in the Northwest Territories, which is a commendable effort, and I think it's a good idea to get that information out there.

In that talk kit, there's a one-page sheet on top of it, and there's a small box on that sheet that says, "Don't drink alcohol and smoke cannabis at the same time." Yet, the government is proposing to sell both those substances in the same place. So, if anyone in the Northwest Territories, maybe in six months that will change, but when legalization date rolls around, they will have to go to a liquor store to get cannabis, so I hope they read their one-page talk kit sheets and understand not to consume both substances at the same time.

This motion flies in the face of the federal task force and the Collin Report and the evidence-based best practices developed. And yes, there may be a concern about retail space in smaller communities, yes, there may be a concern about the ability of vendors to modify their premises, but, if the government is really sold on this model, we should provide the resources to make those stores work or make other stores work or to open cannabis-only stores.

This is not something that, you know, we read once in a report and decided to put forward. This was brought up during our public engagements, as well, and people know first-hand the devastating effects of alcohol on their communities. In fact, the hesitation around legalizing cannabis largely stems from the catastrophic experience of alcohol coming into the small communities. So to imagine that we are going to have one-stop shops for cannabis and liquor, it doesn't seem to meet the test of good public policy and good public health policy.

I really hope that we hear from the Minister on this and why this is necessary because my suspicion is, again, this motion was not consented to during the committee review, because it would put financial strain on liquor vendors and imperil the success of the government's proposed cannabis monopoly. I think that's why this is here. When we're putting the success of the government's monopoly over the importance of public health outcomes and harm reduction, I think we really need to think about what we're trying to achieve here.

This motion, again, is an evidence-based motion designed for harm reduction and designed to promote public health and conforms to the best medical evidence we have about harm reduction and how to properly manage the substances in our society. So I will be supporting this, Mr. Chair, and I hope my colleagues will as well because this isn't a Liquor Commission or a retail model debate. This is a public health debate. It is a harm-reduction debate. We need to pass this motion. We need to do this for the sake of harm-reduction in our communities. Thank you.

Committee Motion 61-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 6.1 after subsection 5(6), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Mr. Testart. Next, we have Mr. Thompson.

Committee Motion 61-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 6.1 after subsection 5(6), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair, when we travelled to communities, we heard over and over about the devastation caused by alcohol. Some people are worried that cannabis will bring more devastation. Others are hopeful that some people will switch from alcohol to cannabis, which they think is less harmful. We heard about the damage caused by bootlegging and the acceptance that prohibition does not work.

We heard repeatedly that the people of the Northwest Territories don't want to tempt people who are buying cannabis by putting booze in front of them on their way to the till. This is why the committee developed this motion, which prevents somebody from selling booze and cannabis from the same store. They can still be at the same building. They can share a roof, warehouse space, but they have to have separate entrances for shoppers.

Government has said that they think this will cost too much money: another red herring, if you ask me. Cannabis sellers will have to make preparation for the sales of cannabis, including inventory and sales systems. These are one-time costs. They are the routine costs of doing business.

The federal task force on legalization spoke about co-location of cannabis and alcohol sales. This motion will help minimize impulse purchase of either substance. It will also make it less convenient for bootleggers to do one-time shopping. Mr. Speaker, we are going to hear from the Minister who says, "This is an opportunity. We are going to work together. This is going to stop it." None of that is real. This is fake. I've heard now from the Health Minister that, in six months, we're going to see things happen. I wonder if they're willing to resign if they don't do it in six months. Really, they are making big promises here.

This is about the residents' health. This motion by Ms. Green, I am going to support it. I hope everybody else does. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Committee Motion 61-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 6.1 after subsection 5(6), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Mr. Thompson. Next, we have Mr. Beaulieu.

Committee Motion 61-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 6.1 after subsection 5(6), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Tom Beaulieu Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, I will be supporting this motion. I think, in the NWT, I noticed that for the people that I am familiar with where I grew up in a small community and that, many people started smoking marijuana to get away from alcohol because alcohol is devastating. Alcoholism is a devastating disease.

It was interesting today, in a news report, they talked about how the hospitalization of people as a result of alcohol is six times higher in the NWT than it is in the rest of Canada, six times, and we're worrying about spending a few dollars to close off one area of the liquor store that this government is sold on, the model that they're sold on, but they don't want to spend a few dollars to close off an area so that there is no co-location of alcohol and cannabis.

I ask this Cabinet: what does it cost our society for alcohol? We should be doing all we can to try to deter people from consuming alcohol. The people who have picked up cannabis or pot or marijuana in order to get away from alcohol are going to be forced to go back into an alcohol store to buy cannabis.

What we're saying is: let's remove that temptation; let's do something about trying to reduce the cost to society of the price of alcohol. The only thing preventing this from happening is money. That's it, a few dollars that would prevent the government from agreeing with the motion and put up separate doors, separate walls and allow the sale of cannabis to be separated from the sale of alcohol.

If the government is saying it has to go into the liquor store, and it has to go into those seven liquor stores that are selling alcohol; we have no choice; that is the only mode that is best for the NWT, then put up a wall. Put up a separate entrance. All it is is a few dollars, and you may save a few lives. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, in case Ms. Green hasn't requested it already, I would like to request a recorded vote.

Committee Motion 61-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 6.1 after subsection 5(6), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Mr. Beaulieu. To the motion. Mr. Simpson.

Committee Motion 61-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 6.1 after subsection 5(6), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Chair. This has come up many times, and I have spoken to it many times. The comment from the communities that got to me was exactly what Mr. Beaulieu was saying, where someone has issues, they have mental health issues, and they are self-medicating for whatever reason. They managed to get off alcohol, and now they have moved to cannabis. They go in that store, and they see that bottle, and the temptation is too much. That is a big effect on someone. Think about that happening to one person. That is a big effect on someone's life.

Everywhere we went, too, we heard concern for the youth and exposing youth to drugs. Now, if there is a youth, someone 19 to 25 or whatever the age, over 19, who wants to purchase cannabis, now we are exposing them to alcohol, as well, and vice versa.

Those are things that weren't contemplated by this bill. This goes back to our privatization debate. The government really never contemplated any other model than selling through the liquor stores. They are really not prepared for this. We say the market will provide all, but I don't think entrepreneurs are ready for it either because the government hasn't even released their wholesale price, what they are going to be selling cannabis for to these stores.

No one has a business case. No one is raising capital to go get some retail space to sell cannabis out of. If it is not sold in liquor stores, it might just not be sold anywhere in the community. Then we are still supporting drug dealers.

That is one of the reasons why I am disappointed with this bill, as I mentioned earlier. It didn't contemplate any of these situations. It didn't account for any sort of variation from exactly what was in there. I think that, if this motion passes, and I hope it does, that the government can figure something out quickly enough that legal, safe cannabis will be available to those wishing to purchase it and we will keep people away from alcohol, or at least keep people away from that temptation if that is what is needed for that person. I will be supporting this. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Committee Motion 61-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 6.1 after subsection 5(6), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Mr. Simpson. I see no further questions, comments. Minister Sebert.

Committee Motion 61-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 6.1 after subsection 5(6), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Louis Sebert Thebacha

I will defer to the Member opposite. I will speak to it, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, Bill 6, as it is currently drafted, provides for a secure retail regime that is ready to roll out across the territory on legalization day. If this motion was to be passed, most of the present liquor stores would have a struggle getting ready in time to begin operations when legalization occurs.

There would be engineering requirements, building permits, fire and building-code considerations, and a lot of money directed toward renovations, all during the very busy summer construction season. It certainly brings into question whether stores would be prepared to invest in hiring additional staff for separate areas and to undertake extensive restructuring of their buildings, especially given that it is anticipated that other cannabis vendors will be designated in the future.

We understand the concerns that exist around co-location of alcohol and cannabis and acknowledge that these are legitimate, but it is not expected that requiring a separate entrance would be the most effective way of addressing those concerns. Walking out of one door and into another just steps away is not much of a deterrent. Efforts would be better spent on increasing education around the risks of consuming alcohol and cannabis simultaneously, and it is planned that public information on this issue will be available at all retail locations.

Individuals who may have alcohol addiction issues and who wish to purchase cannabis without having to enter a liquor store will have the option of ordering cannabis through the mail or growing their own at home. It should also be noted that it is anticipated that vendors other than liquor stores will be designated in the future, providing yet another option.

We are committed to having a safe and secure retail regime in place by the time legalization occurs. We believe that, when considered alongside the options to legally obtain cannabis outside of liquor stores provided for in the legislation, along with planned publication around the risks, the retail regime is a reasonable approach.

I spoke earlier of the information we obtained in the report, "what we heard." There were several questions asked, "Do you favour sales controlled by a GNWT agency or more open system?" As I mentioned earlier, it was 563 to 528, with 563 saying a GNWT agency, such as the Liquor Commission, as opposed to an open system.

Among the retail model suggestions, there were many. I may have said earlier there was a majority in favour of the liquor retail model. I see when I'm looking at the stats, actually, it was by far the largest number, 419, and there were a variety of other possibilities, such as the tobacco model and pharmacy health centres. Our plans to initially sell through the liquor store, as I say, are reasonable. There may be other options in the future, and for these reasons, I and the Cabinet will not be supporting the Member's motion. Thank you.

Committee Motion 61-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 6.1 after subsection 5(6), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister Sebert. Next, we have Mr. O'Reilly.

Committee Motion 61-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 6.1 after subsection 5(6), Defeated
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Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Thanks, Mr. Chair. I want to thank the Minister for speaking before me. I want to make it very clear, like some of the other speakers, that I didn't hear anybody support or ask for co-location, selling liquor and cannabis out of the same space. Nobody I've ever heard say that, not one person.

I want to take the Minister back to his opening remarks tonight. We have an obligation to make the best decisions that we can to design a system that puts the health and safety of our residents first. That's not what's in the bill. That's the Minister's own words: health and safety of the residents first. The public interest first. That's not what's in the bill. The Minister admitted that this is really an issue of commercial interests, costs, convenience. That's not putting health and safety of our residents first at all.

I now know where Cabinet is coming from on this. They're not putting the health and safety of our residents first when it comes to co-location. Commercial interests, costs, convenience: that's what's driving this, and that's just wrong.

I told my colleagues this is the hill I'm going to die on in terms of cannabis. We should not be selling it out of the same place as liquor. It's the hill I'm going to die on, and I don't know how the Minister could have said what he said in his opening statement and then just said those reasons for why we're going to allow for co-location. It's completely inconsistent. I'm going to be supporting the motion. Thanks, Mr. Chair.

Committee Motion 61-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 6.1 after subsection 5(6), Defeated
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Mr. O'Reilly. To the motion.

Committee Motion 61-18(3): Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act - Amendment to Schedule A, Clause 5 - Addition of Subsection 6.1 after subsection 5(6), Defeated
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Some Hon. Members

Question.