After territorial elections on October 30, 2017, the Assembly of the Nunavut territory scrambled to finalize marijuana policies just days after Liberal Party Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s federal government completed sweeping legislation that legalized recreational across Canada beginning Oct. 17, 2018.
Nunavut is Canada’s newest, largest, northernmost and least densely populated territory. Nunavummiut have the lowest per-capita marijuana consumption of in the country, according to Statistics Canada, and historically pay the highest costs per gram.
The government of Nunavut passed its Cannabis Act and Cannabis Statutes Amendment Act, which allow the government to regulate the use and distribution, cultivation and future requirements for opening marijuana stores and lounges. It also amends existing legislation restricting tobacco smoking to include marijuana.
In crafting the final legislation, the government worked off findings from a marijuana survey which supported legalization and a minimum age of 19 to buy and consume marijuana.
The final provincial legislation included a couple of differences from what had been initially proposed, most notably reversing a ban on home cultivation. The plan to ban home cultivation, which was likely to face a court challenge, was replaced by wording that allows the territory to regulate home growing without yet setting a limit or restriction on what can be grown. Although federal legislation allows up to four (4) plants per household, it does not specify whether provinces or territories can ban home growing, leaving a legal gray area.
Another change in the legislation banned marijuana at all times in schools. But during special events, the earlier proposal had been allowing limited exemptions for non-smoked marijuana.
Initially, there will be no marijuana storefronts in 2018, and proposed private stores must undergo a 60- to a 90-day approval process, called a community consultation, before opening. The government will initially subcontract with vendors to sell online for two (2) years. The rechristened Nunavut Liquor and Cannabis Commission is the distributor for the recreational marijuana but has yet to post any information on its website.
Although the government is imposing a “zero-tolerance” policy for newbie drivers for alcohol beginning in December, Nunavut will follow federal guidelines for drug-impaired driving.
Police can immediately put on hold licenses for 90 days if their evaluation reveals impaired driving, or if a driver refuses to submit to testing.
Under federal guidelines, drivers face graduated penalties depending on levels of drug and/or alcohol concentrations, as well as previous offenses.
Federally, the legal limit for THC in the bloodstream is two (2) nanograms per milliliter. A nanogram is one-billionth of a gram. Concentrations between two (2) and five (5) nanograms result in a fine up to $1,000. Concentrations of 5 or more nanograms will result in a $1,000 minimum fine on the first offense, imprisonment of 30 days or more on a second offense, and 120 days or more on a third offense. Penalties for drug-impaired crashes can range from 18 months to as much as life in prison for a fatal accident.
How to Purchase
Recreational marijuana will only be available for purchase under the direction of the new Nunavut Liquor and Cannabis Commission. The commission is expected to contract with an online vendor from another province for two (2) years, then consider a competitive government tender. Details of how to buy or receive online marijuana have not been released.
In 2019, marijuana stores and lounges will be allowed. However, they will be subject to approval through a community consultation process lasting up to 90 days. It is expected that chains such as Northern stores, the Western Convenience Store Association, and Arctic Co-ops may apply to sell and co-locate recreational marijuana in their existing stores. However, they will need to apply for licenses on a per-shop basis. Regulations for marijuana sales in existing stores have not been released.
Online consumers will be allowed to buy a maximum of 30 grams, or 1.06 ounces, of dried cannabis at one time, or equivalents in fresh cannabis and cannabis oils.
Premade edibles and extracts will not be available until 2019, although consumers can create their own edibles as they wish.
Where is it Safe to Consume?
Consuming marijuana in public is prohibited in most restaurants, bars, hospitals, schools, child-care centers, sports facilities, or public places. Consumption is prohibited within three (3) meters, or about 10 feet, of entrances and exits to such areas. Public consumption can be penalized by fines from $200 to $2,000.
Smoking will be allowed in limited places indoors and outdoors where tobacco smoking and vaping are permitted. It will be allowed in private residences as long as odors cannot be detected from another dwelling. Smoking is prohibited in common areas for apartments and condos. Consumption is allowed in rentals unless prohibited by lease or property agreements.
In 2019, the government will allow marijuana lounges. Although smoking of marijuana or tobacco will not be allowed, consumption of non-smokable forms of cannabis will be allowed.
It is illegal to consume marijuana while operating a vehicle for either drivers or passengers. The law applies regardless of whether the vehicle is in motion. In a vehicle, mrijuana must be stored in a sealed container that is not accessible to the driver or passengers during transport.
Possession Information and Limits
The minimum legal age to buy or possess marijuana in Nunavut is 19, which is the same age for alcohol, and one (1) year older than the minimum age to buy tobacco. The province allows possession by adults of up to 30 grams, or 1.06 ounces of marijuana in most public places.
The national government has set equivalencies for one gram of dried marijuana to equal:
- five (5) grams of fresh weeds
- 15 grams, or one-half ounce (0.5 oz) of edibles
- 70 milliliters, or 2.35 fluid ounces, of liquid
- 0.25 grams of concentrate, and
- one (1) plant seed
No limit has been set for home storage, although the territorial government is considering limits to prevent stockpiling.
Under age are not allowed to possess marijuana and face forfeiture of the product, fines of $200 to $2,000 for less than five (5) grams, and criminal prosecution for more than five (5) grams.
By federal law, patients using medical cannabis are allowed to have up to 150 grams, or 5.3 ounces — 30 times the daily dose prescribed by an authorized health-care practitioner, either an authorized physician or nurse practitioner — of dried weeds or its equivalent.
How Old Do I Need to Be to Consume?
Possession Limit for Flower
30 grams – Recreational
150 grams – Medical
Possession Limit for Concentrates
N/A – Recreational
N/A – Medical
After proposing a ban on home growing, the territorial government decided instead to give itself the ability to regulate whether plants can be grown at home and in what amounts. With Quebec the only province to ban home growing and legal challenges expected, Nunavut may wait to see how courts will rule on the case.
These regulations do not apply for approved and licensed home-grown medical marijuana, which is governed by national laws.
Thousands of Canadians are federally licensed to possess and use medical marijuana. Until the new law is passed, Canadians must the qualify for the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR), which came into effect August 24, 2016.
Recipients must provide medical documentation confirming the medical diagnosis by a health-care practitioner.
Patients must be registered only once at a time and not be convicted of a cannabis-related offense .
Generally, patients can qualify for medical marijuana under two categories. One is to allow for compassionate end-of-life care, for alleviating discomfort symptoms relating to illnesses and injuries, or for side effects from cancer or HIV/AIDS medications. The second category is for patients suffering from other constant debilitating symptoms. Among the ailments Health Canada lists as possibly qualifying are:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Attention-deficit and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorders (ADD/ADHD)
- Back and neck conditions
- Brain injury
- Chronic nausea
- Chronic pain
- Eating disorders
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Crohn’s disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Hepatitis C
- Kidney failure, including patients receiving dialysis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscle spasms
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Parkinson’s disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Severe arthritis
- Sexual dysfunction
- Sleep disorders
- Vehicular crashes
Information on eligibility and applying is available at the Canadian government’s medical marijuana website.
Authorized caregivers are allowed to possess fresh or dried marijuana or cannabis oil, and may transfer or administer the substances or provide a medical document. They may also transfer substances to an individual who is responsible for the patient under their professional treatment.
This page was last updated October 12, 2018.