Growing Cannabis in Northwest Territories

The Northwest Territories (NWT) of Canada present unique challenges and opportunities for individuals interested in cultivating cannabis. With its subarctic and arctic climates, growing cannabis in NWT is markedly different from cultivation in more temperate regions. This article delves into the intricacies of growing cannabis in the NWT, offering insights into legal parameters, environmental challenges, cultivation techniques, and potential benefits.

Legal Parameters for Cannabis Cultivation in NWT

Following the Cannabis Act (Bill C-45) which came into effect on October 17, 2018, recreational cannabis was legalized across Canada, including in the Northwest Territories. Here are the legal guidelines pertaining to cannabis cultivation in the NWT:

  • Personal Cultivation: Residents are permitted to grow up to four cannabis plants per household, not per individual. This is irrespective of the number of adults residing in the household.
  • Commercial Cultivation: Those wishing to cultivate cannabis for sale must acquire the appropriate licensing from both the territorial and federal governments.
  • Restricted Areas: While the law permits cultivation, some communities may have local restrictions in place. It’s crucial to be aware of any bylaws or regulations specific to your community.
  • Sales and Distribution: The Northwest Territories Liquor and Cannabis Commission (NTLCC) oversees the distribution and sale of cannabis in the NWT. Any party interested in distributing or retailing cannabis should liaise with the NTLCC.

Environmental Challenges and Growing Seasons

The Northwest Territories have a predominantly subarctic climate, characterized by long, cold winters and short, mild summers. This climate poses particular challenges for cannabis cultivation:

  • Short Growing Seasons: With a limited window of warm weather, outdoor growers need to be strategic about their planting schedules. Usually, the months from June to September are the most viable for outdoor cultivation.
  • Low Light Levels: Given its northern latitude, NWT experiences extended daylight hours in the summer but prolonged darkness in the winter. This can affect the photoperiod-sensitive nature of many cannabis strains.
  • Cold Temperatures: Even during summer months, nighttime temperatures can drop considerably. Frost can be a threat to outdoor crops, especially early in the spring or late in the fall.

Cultivation Techniques

Given the challenging environmental factors, cannabis cultivators in the NWT often adopt specialized techniques:

  • Indoor Growing: Many growers opt for indoor cultivation using controlled environments. This allows for year-round growth, protection from the elements, and more precise control over light, temperature, and humidity.
  • Greenhouses: Greenhouses offer a middle ground, harnessing the extended daylight of the NWT summers while also providing protection from colder temperatures.
  • Choosing the Right Strain: It’s important to select strains that are resilient to colder climates or those with shorter flowering times to match the brief NWT summer.
  • Supplementary Lighting: Due to the unique daylight hours, some outdoor growers use supplementary lighting to manipulate the photoperiod and induce flowering at the right time.
  • Hardening Off: Gradually acclimatizing plants to outdoor conditions can help improve their resilience. This technique involves initially placing them outside for just a few hours daily, gradually increasing their exposure to the natural environment.

Potential Benefits and Opportunities

Despite the challenges, there are several benefits to cultivating cannabis in the NWT:

  • Natural Light: The extended daylight hours during summers can lead to vigorous vegetative growth. Plants can potentially grow larger and healthier, leading to increased yields.
  • Economic Opportunities: The cannabis industry can offer significant economic opportunities for NWT, from cultivation and distribution to ancillary services like tourism and education.
  • Sustainability: Indoor grows often rely heavily on electricity. Given the abundance of sunlight in the NWT during summer months, growers can potentially reduce energy costs by harnessing natural light, particularly in greenhouse setups.


Growing cannabis in the Northwest Territories demands adaptability and a deep understanding of the unique environmental conditions. While it poses specific challenges, with the right strategies and techniques, it’s entirely possible to produce thriving cannabis crops in this region. As the industry evolves, there’s potential for the NWT to harness its unique geographic position as a strength, transforming challenges into opportunities in the burgeoning world of cannabis cultivation.