Cannabis Prohibition Options and Timelines

News Releases

YELLOWKNIFE (June 6, 2018) – The Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) has recently passed Bill 6: Cannabis Legalization and Regulation Implementation Act, which legalizes the sale and use of cannabis in the NWT. 

Part 4 of the Northwest Territories’ Cannabis Product Act provides NWT community governments with an option to hold a local plebiscite to decide whether to prohibit or restrict cannabis sales and distribution within community boundaries.  This option is similar to the option that exists for restricting liquor.

The cannabis plebiscite option is available to a community government until such a time as that community has a cannabis store. Once a cannabis store is operating in a community, community governments no longer have the option to hold a plebiscite to ask to prohibit or restrict the sale of cannabis. 

In order to ensure that product is available on legalization day, the GNWT is planning to initially sell cannabis through the NWT’s six liquor stores as well as through an online purchasing system. If one of the seven communities where cannabis is planned to be for sale as of legalization day  want to prohibit or restrict cannabis sales, a plebiscite will need to be held in advance of the legalization date. Those communities who will not immediately have local cannabis stores do not face the same time constraints, and will have the ability to prohibit or restrict cannabis at any time prior to the establishment of a cannabis store in that community.

Recognizing that a community may want to prohibit or restrict cannabis sales immediately, the Department of Finance in collaboration with the Department of Justice is committed to conduct a plebiscite within 25 days of the date when the Minister of Finance receives a resolution from a municipal or band council.  Any municipal or band council resolution that requests a plebiscite will need to be submitted to the Minister of Finance before July 16 in order to put the results in regulations in time for when cannabis becomes legal.


“Despite legalization, cannabis is still a controlled substance and under the Cannabis Products Act community governments have the authority to decide whether they want to restrict cannabis use and sale within their community. The Cannabis Products Act gives community governments the same options for community control that are available under the Liquor Act.”

- Robert C. McLeod, Minister of Finance

Quick Facts:

  • The six NWT communities where the GNWT currently plans to have liquor and cannabis stores are: Yellowknife, Hay River, Inuvik, Fort Smith, Norman Wells and Fort Simpson.
  • The steps for local restrictions are:
    1. A community government makes a resolution requesting that the Minister of Finance hold a plebiscite asking residents if they support the establishment of a cannabis restriction or prohibition system;
    2. The Minister of Finance orders a plebiscite, sets the question, fixes the date; and appoints a returning officer;
    3. A plebiscite is held; and
    4. If the majority of voters approve the restriction or prohibition system, the Minister makes regulations to implement the system.
  • The six communities where cannabis stores are planned must notify the Minister of Finance of a resolution requesting a plebiscite before July 16.
  • The remaining 27 communities are not under the same time constraints.  They are able to make a resolution requesting a plebiscite at any point before a cannabis store is opened in their community. 
  • The Cannabis Products Act allows for the establishment of private cannabis retailers in communities across the NWT, provided that these retailers meet a set of established criteria. These criteria will be finalized within six months of legalization day.

For more information:
Todd Sasaki
Senior Communications Advisor
Shared Corporate Services
Government of the Northwest Territories 867-767-9151 ext. 14032