Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut February 13, 2018 - 10:30 am

Nunavut senator sparks homegrown debate on legal weed

"I don't think we're going to be rushing this bill"

Senator Dennis Patterson of Nunavut speaks at a consultation meeting Feb. 11 at Iqaluit's Roman Catholic Parish Hall, saying the federal government hasn't done enough to consult Nunavut leaders, and the people of Nunavut, about the impending legalization of recreational cannabis. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)
Senator Dennis Patterson of Nunavut speaks at a consultation meeting Feb. 11 at Iqaluit's Roman Catholic Parish Hall, saying the federal government hasn't done enough to consult Nunavut leaders, and the people of Nunavut, about the impending legalization of recreational cannabis. (PHOTO BY STEVE DUCHARME)

As fresh uncertainty looms over the feasibility of Ottawa’s July 1 deadline for the legalization of cannabis in Canada, Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson doubled-down at a meeting in Iqaluit on Sunday, stressing that Canada’s Senate will not give Bill C-45 a rubber-stamp.

“I don’t think we’re going to be rushing this bill,” Patterson said at the latest leg of his cross-Nunavut consultation tour, on Sunday, Feb. 11 at the Roman Catholic Parish Hall in Iqaluit.

“The Senate is not bound by any timeline.”

Patterson and the rest of the Conservative caucus in the Senate have already prolonged debate over C-45 with increased scrutiny of the bill, which passed from the House of Commons to the Red Chamber for debate last November.

Bill C-45, or the Cannabis Act, will legalize the sale and possession of recreational cannabis and was supposed to come into effect on July 1, 2018.

But the federal government has left the question of how cannabis will be sold, distributed and regulated to the provinces and territories.

Some of those jurisdictions, including Nunavut, say the July 1 deadline is unrealistic.

The Government of Nunavut kicked off a consultation tour collecting public input for future legislation last month, while quietly releasing a 10-page discussion paper on cannabis legalization.

Patterson said during his meeting that he’s keeping an “open mind” on the legalization of cannabis.

But he criticized Ottawa for its lack of consultation with designated representatives for Nunavut Inuit, like Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.

The senator noted that participants at earlier consultations in Kimmirut and Cape Dorset were “shocked” that the bill is being rolled out without regard for the absence of an addictions treatment centre in Nunavut.

The lack of an addictions treatment centre was “clearly a very strong theme” so far during the first two meetings, Patterson said, adding, “we’re behind every province and territory” when it comes to addictions support.

And despite a strong divide between older and younger generations on the benefits of legalizing cannabis, Patterson acknowledged that marijuana use in the territory is “widespread” and support for recreational use of the drug is strong.

But Patterson argued that Bill C-45, as currently drafted, goes beyond simply decriminalizing the substance for adult users.

It also includes fines for minors found in possession of five grams or less of cannabis, in lieu of criminal prosecution.

Patterson said that many participants at the Kimmirut meeting were concerned this was too lax.

Mayors who met the senator during a Nunavut Association of Municipalities last year also complained about a lack of consultation from the federal government over the proposed changes.

Some of the half-dozen participants at the Iqaluit meeting also raised concerns over Bill C-45’s legalization of home cultivation.

The law allows people to grow up to four cannabis plants per household, although the territorial government could introduce stricter rules.

A former corrections officer at the meeting warned that growing cannabis plants at home could contribute to an increase of mould within residences, and put a further burden on landlords through the resulting repair costs, while contributing to Nunavut’s housing crisis.

One solution, they suggested, could be the physical sale of cannabis at a dispensary, which would make purchases through a store more convenient for users than growing cannabis inside their residence.

Patterson also took time at the meeting to attack the federal government for its implementation of carbon pricing, which is set to create surcharges, beginning in 2018, of $10 per tonne of carbon, increasing to $50 per carbon by 2022.

Patterson said Ottawa promised the Government of Nunavut, under former Premier Peter Taptuna, that the territory would get a special exemption under the new surcharges—but that has yet to materialize.

A carbon price is intended to provide an economic incentive for people to move away from burning fossil fuels and towards alternative energy.

But no alternative energy sources are available in Nunavut, Patterson said.

“We’ve got to carve out a better plan for Nunavut, Patterson said, adding that he was assured by the federal environment minister, Catherine McKenna, “not to worry,” during a recent meeting in Ottawa.

Patterson is currently on a 25-community tour of Nunavut consulting with his constituents over federal policies affecting the North.

While the upcoming Cannabis Act is expected to attract the most attention at these meetings, Patterson is encouraging Nunavummiut to speak out on any issue of concern.

For more details on Patterson’s tour, you find a more detailed schedule here.

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(23) Comments:

#1. Posted by David on February 13, 2018

Ah…Senator…out of touch with constituents still? Let me remind you of why your party is not in power any longer…this exactly.

And see that big yellow thing in the sky? That is an alternate energy source FYI.

At least you got 6 residents to attend…

#2. Posted by Mary Jane. on February 13, 2018

Whatever means we use to obtain weed, of course it should be legal,
I would prefer to buy ready mades at the present retail stores.
If other folks prefer to grow their own, fine go for it.
I support laws for child protection, but as with everything else people
are gonna do what people want to do.

#3. Posted by Fake Plastic Senator on February 13, 2018

Mr. Patterson “is encouraging Nunavummiut to speak out on any issue of concern.”

Here is my concern, Mr. Senator.

Over the last few years the public have come to see clearly that the Canadian Senate is a body filled with sycophants and ideological appointees with few recognizable accomplishments, talent or merit to justify their positions.

How can this be changed?

#4. Posted by Harry on February 13, 2018

Senator Patterson, You`re not to impose your thoughts, believes and rein over peoples needs of medical marijuana. You should be listening to our electoral constitutions and aid them…

#5. Posted by Puff puff on February 13, 2018

Hi Harry,

How come one quarter of 38,000 Nunavummiut need medical marijuana?

What conditions are they suffering from?

Is medical marijuana the best alternative for all of them?

Does it cure them?

Does it mask their pain?

Does it enable them to be contributing members of society?

Is it an escape, and if so, from what?

#6. Posted by Resign Patterson on February 13, 2018

Senator Patterson should resign and let the government appoint a Nunavut Inuit woman to the Senate.  Patterson does not represent Nunavut.  He is representing the Conservative whips in the Senate who are telling him to force this issue on Nunavut, regardless of negative impact.  “The Senate is not bound by any timeline.” This is not what he said when he voted to pass CETA even when it was bad economically for Nunavut.  Of all the issues confronting Nunavut, e.g. housing crisis, violence against women and girls, health and youth suicide prevention, education… Patterson puffs on about pot all the while legalization will bring benefits to Nunavut.

#7. Posted by Legal does it on February 13, 2018

Regardless of how our Nunavut government feels, it will become legal for recreational use. People are so quick to judge the use of marijuana, and not minding people binge drinking. We are in 2018 now, and people still can’t control their own drinking. I think it’s in the best interest of the people to chill with a joint of marijuana then to terrorize the community with alcohol. Also, Nunavut can’t stop the use of marijuana anymore than it already has, because it’s been around the entire lifespan of my 33 years here. Less drug dealers, cheaper marijuana, more money for food, taxed to be used for medical and educational purposes. Let’s get with the times. Us inuit are mankind just like the rest of the world, so why try keep us under a rock like we don’t exist.

#8. Posted by Father Time on February 14, 2018

can we bring a joint to the meeting?

#9. Posted by Harry on February 14, 2018

#5 Prince Puff puff hiding behind your mask and asking these seven questions?

Have you loss a family member! From Cancer, HIV & AIDS, Leukemia, Starvation and Loneliness?

Have you done any free volunteer work for the less fortunate, Inuit Homeliness, drug addicts?

I shake you hand and praise you for your concerns!

#10. Posted by Paul Murphy on February 14, 2018

Senator well done on your part to listen to the concerns of us who do not need the fictitious help marijuana supposedly provides. You are listening to the silent majority (the non users). Although I recognize that 25% of those interviewed by Stats Canada admitted to using weed over the year, the number includes children. C45 suggests they won’t fine children with less than 5 gms of weed in their possession. What are they going to do to protect these same children? Dealers and family members and friends(?) will continue to give it to them. Nothing suggests to me that thse children are being protected in this bill. As you are well aware we have enough problems with alcohol abuse here in Nunavut and adding weed to the mix is not going to make things better. I laugh at those who suggest it will get rid of the dealers and put more food on the table! Wishful thinking on the part of the users. Keep up the good work sir.

#11. Posted by Stick to the facts please on February 14, 2018

Hey #4 and #9, the legislation has NOTHING to do with medical marijuana. You have nothing to worry about it.

There already is a system for obtaining medical marijuana in Nunavut with a prescription from a doctor and some people are already using it. The system could probably use some improvements, but it exists.

This new law is about RECREATIONAL marijuana, not medical marijuana. It will not change how people obtain medical marijuana with a prescription. You have nothing to worry about.

I support legalization of marijuana, but the Liberal government is doing it the wrong way and it will create new problems.

The biggest will probably be continued “bootleg” weed dealers who will ignore the legal system and continue selling illegal weed to minors or people who do not know how to order it legally. This will create even more criminal offenders in Nunavut which we do not need.

#12. Posted by Concerned Citizen on February 14, 2018

I would consider the Senator’s remarks more seriously if he didn’t represent the “Reefer Madness” party. Recently a member of that party equated pot use with fentanyl.

As well, the GN could have done these consultations years ago. They knew legislation was coming but they did very little. Poor governing.

#13. Posted by iToke on February 14, 2018

Dear Paul Murphy,

Your comments on the issue of legalization have become a caricature. There is no silent majority on the issue of cannabis use, only a small, afraid and largely ignorant little block of those who oppose anything they don’t understand—which covers a lot.

You complain that people might give cannabis to underage people, regardless of the severe penalties for doing so in Bill C-45. Are you being wilfully ignorant, or just obtuse?

Who knows?

It’s good that children won’t be charged for possessing a small amount of cannabis, would you rather these kids carried a criminal record around for the rest of their lives? What kind of vindictive jerk would wish a thing like that?

Who knows?

#14. Posted by Paul Murphy on February 14, 2018

Well it appears the reading and understanding skills of users may be reflected in the response of “iToke”. Perhaps he should give it a break and not get into knee jerk name calling.
At no time in my post or other posts do I suggest the children should end up with a criminal record. Nor has anyone else that I am aware of.
I am more concerned about how they will cared for when it comes to being provided with this stupidity that the adults are demonstrating.
At no time does any documentation say “when” we are going to get any addictions center. Good talk by all our NDP and near NDP friends but no action - as usual. Fortunately we do have a political party in the Senate that is going to ensure the legislation is right the first time. Alcohol a problem in the north? Lets throw a little weed into the mix.

#15. Posted by Waste of money on February 14, 2018

Ah, the Senator has come up to Nunavut to encourage criticism and complaints and not solutions or encouragement. This is not money well spent.

#16. Posted by Jim MacDonald on February 14, 2018

Maybe the Senator will question. Why after 93 years of Free-Market development of the Canadian cannabis industry, which made BC bud famous around the world, the Government is ending this to an exclusive Government monopolization?

The opioid crisis in USA and Canada continues increasing in size and deaths. It’s easy to point the finger at Big Pharma for the cause of the opioid crisis. Huge, huge profits.

Recently published in American Journal of Public Health, opioid deaths decreased 6.5% after Colorado quasi legalization of recreational cannabis.

University of Connecticut and Georgia State University found alcohol consumption dropped 15% where medical cannabis was easily accessible.  Predicting alcohol sales would drop even further when recreational cannabis became available. Last month Aspen Colorado proved this true. Leads to fewer fights, calmer, peaceful homes?

Not hard to see why Big Pharma and alcohol companies are the 2 aggressors, lobbing hard opposing legalization.

#17. Posted by iToke on February 14, 2018

#14 Paul Murphy, I wonder if you can answer this. Do you ever drink alcohol? If so, did you know that alcohol is considered 10 times as physically harmful as cannabis?

Did you know that Tylenol is considered more dangerous than cannabis? Did you know Tylenol causes about 68 deaths annually in Canada (Cannabis causes zero).

Did you know that nicotine is considered more harmful than cannabis?

What do you think the government is doing to keep these substances out of the hands of children?

Anything? Do you have concerns about these problems also, or just cannabis?

Please advise.

#18. Posted by The Old Trapper on February 14, 2018

Senator, on July 2nd I plan on purchasing legal cannabis for the first time in my life, or protesting outside of your offices in Ottawa, also for the first time in my life.

Your choice.

#19. Posted by Overwhelmed Drinker on February 15, 2018

A lot of smart silent people knew if only already legal recreational drug was readily available,  binge-taking it would’ve gone way down. This legal drug is beer, wine, spirits.There wouldn’t have been so much needless deaths if only there wasn’t so much self-righteous opposition to it. Weed consumers are the most hypocritical opposers of alcohol. They are even more self-righteous than non-users of alcohol. But try to take away their drug of choice. Ha!

#20. Posted by Father Time on February 16, 2018

The old folks home should become legitimized or removed as the members of the senate have no real mandate to serve the government of the day of the people. Elect them or just make them a rubber stamp. one or the other. When a Conservative appointee chooses to do their own thing they really have no mandate. I or you did not put any of them there.

#21. Posted by Agreed on February 16, 2018

I agree with #20. Patterson has no earned, and no moral authority whatsoever.

He is the sound wind blowing through an empty pipe.

Do you understand, Mr. senator?

#22. Posted by Abolish the Senate on February 16, 2018

The Senate is an anachronism that needs to be abolished!

The Senate studied this issue thoroughly in 2002 and recommended legalization of Cannabis.

“The 600 plus page Senate report is a result of rigorous research, analysis and extensive public hearings in Ottawa and communities throughout Canada with experts and citizens.”
Excerpted from

Legalization was front and centre in the last federal election.  Canadians made their choice, our elected government passed legislation and now an unelected and non-accountable body is delaying the process for no particular good reason.

#23. Posted by Patterson showcases the impotence of the Senate on February 16, 2018

Why not push for real changes to the Conservative nutrition North program. It can have a far more useful purpose.  It should never leave you, as you put it in place you Conservative Senator.

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