Canadian First Nations Claim Sovereignity Stake on Cannabis

Whenever legislation is debated in states, one of the most prominent claims is that marijuana legalization should be inclusive and offer opportunities to the less affluent demographics in the world. When end last year the topic of legalization was big in New York, driven by Cuomo, even the bodegas joined the fold and claimed they should have sales rights.

In Canada, country of #newprohibition, the indigenous tribes — AKA First Nations — have now taken the debate to a new level.

In most Canadian provinces the regional Alcohol & Gaming Commissions operate the restricted licensing system. This week the Alcohol & Gaming Commission of Ontario approved the right of several First Nations to apply for licenses within their jurisdiction and the Shawanaga, Serpent River, Chapleau Cree, Couchiching, Mississauga, Wahgoshig, Wiikwemkoong and Nipissing First Nations were all cleared to apply for a cannabis dispensary license.

But for the Nipissing First Nation Chief Scott McLeod that wasn’t sufficient and McLeod claimed that cannabis policy on their territory is a matter of sovereignty, not one of the Alcohol & Gaming commission.

”You know we support the individual, but we don’t necessarily support the idea that the province has jurisdiction in our First Nation lands. So, we’re still pursuing the avenue of working out a bilateral agreement with the federal government so we can maintain jurisdiction and the creation of laws in our land.“
— Chief Scott McLeod to CNBC

According to McLeod, so far the First Nations have been left out of the loop — and of legal cannabis.

”We have not been able to access a safe, legal supply of cannabis because we were left out of the federal legislation. [But] we didn’t want to stand in the way of our individuals who wanted to partake in this economic opportunity.”

Earlier this year, in June, the Chiefs of Ontario, assessed in a resolution that it is up to each First Nation to decide the legalization, and licensing, within their territory. This mostly based on — yet again — lacking inclusion by the government when it rolled out its national cannabis policy last October 2018.

“There was little or no community consultation by the federal government and there are still no provisions in the legislation which address First Nation social and cultural needs, and rights to economic development, health, and public safety.”

The resolution by the Chiefs of Ontario, firmly places the responsibility and legal authority with the First Nations.

“First Nations must have their autonomy and authority recognized as rights holders at the table as governments when asserting their interests in the cannabis sector”

First Nation Dispensary in Saskatchewan

Mino-Maskihki Dispensary – Photo via Mino-Maskihki Facebook page

Meanwhile, in Saskatchewan, the Muscowpetung First Nation opened a dispensary on its territory. As expected, the store named Mino-Maskihki (“good medicine”), has been fought by the legislators who have demanded its closure since last November. The store is still open and operational to this day and promotes itself online, via its Facebook page.

The case is now pending resolution by court.

Should the First Nations be able to decide themselves whether they can operate dispensaries or not? Can they hand out their own licenses on their own territory?


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