Local dignitaries and members of Indigenous Bloom cut the ribbon, officially opening the Semiahmoo First Nation dispensary on Saturday, June 15, 2019. (Black Press Media files)

B.C. conference looks at how First Nations can be involved in cannabis industry

Some First Nations are dead set against it, while some see economic growth opportunities

The cannabis industry is seen by some First Nations as an opportunity to take the initiative and get out of poverty, says the regional chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations.

Cultivating, buying or selling cannabis could provide economic support to those First Nations devastated by a downturn in the province’s forest industry, Terry Teegee said Wednesday at a summit on cannabis held by the Assembly of First Nations.

“A lot of the communities are tired of living in poverty,” he said.

“It’s an opportunity for your community to assert your jurisdiction, assert your self-determination. We want to be a part of the community.”

The two-day First Nations Cannabis Summit is attended by chiefs or their representatives from across the country to hear about policy, safety, health, and social and economic development.

There are varying points of view among First Nations on how involved they want to be in the cannabis industry with some ”dead set against it,” while others look at it as an economic development opportunity, Teegee said.

While he doesn’t have statistics on how many First Nations want to be involved in the cannabis industry, Teegee said eight licences out of 122 were given to First Nations in Ontario.

“So in Ontario that’s a real issue because there’s a lot more than eight First Nations interested in having a distribution site or cultivating them.”

Teegee said it’s unclear how much money can be made in the industry because there’s been a limited number of licences distributed in most of Canada.

“The only one that came out aggressively has been Alberta and that’s why you see Alberta leading the nation in terms of tax revenue,” Teegee said.

Sam Wesley, owner of Nations, an Indigenous-controlled cannabis production company based in Burns Lake, B.C., said one of the main challenges for First Nations is financial backing.

But there is still room for First Nations to get involved in the industry, he said, adding that profits could be used to fund housing or other projects.

Sonia Eggerman, a lawyer with MLT Aikins who has extensive experience with Aboriginal and treaty rights, said after speaking to the conference that current federal and provincial regulations have cut First Nations out of opportunities to take part in the cannabis industry.

“And I think that’s a real missed opportunity,” she said.

Drew Lafond, also with MLT Aikins, said the key obstacle is lack of meaningful engagement by the federal government to work with First Nations.

“Much like gaming and tobacco, cannabis carries a spiritual connotation, has traditional significance, medicinal significance, plus socio-economic significance,” he said.

“From a legal perspective, it’s an area that First Nations have a close relationship with historically. So breadth and history are the two things that make this such a huge issue in Indigenous country.”

READ MORE: Semiahmoo First Nation opens cannabis dispensary

READ MORE: Second marijuana dispensary to open up on Chilliwack First Nation reserve

Hina Alam, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nakusp council to allow more than one cannabis shop in the community

312 Broadway Street was originally the only place allowed to have a cannabis shop

Village of Nakusp council gives green light for phase two of downtown revitalization project

Concrete sidewalks, curbs, streetlights and bus stop will now be added to downtown block

Three fires burning in Arrow and Kootenay Lakes regions under control

A fire burning in the Burton Creek area was also recently put out by crews

Nelson’s American sister city faces COVID-19 culture war

In Sandpoint, Idaho, wearing a mask is about Black Lives Matter, gun rights, and COVID-19

Nakusp Wine and Beer Festival cancelled this year due to COVID-19 crisis

The Rotary Club said next year’s event is still scheduled to take place in April

B.C. records new COVID-19 death, 85 more cases; Horgan calls on celebrity help

This brings the total number of active confirmed cases to 531 across the province

B.C. man who nearly died from COVID-19 reflects on one-month battle

Robert Billyard was in an induced coma to ensure his body would not fight the ventilator to breath

Wedding party bear sprayed at Okanagan campsite irks locals

Latest criminal activity at the Meadows leaves locals frustrated

Paramedics fired for allowing patient to crawl for treatment on Downtown Eastside: court documents

The man spent three days in intensive care and three months recovering in hospital from sepsis

Feds seeking private consultant to design firearm buyback program

The ban covers some 1,500 models and variants of what the government considers assault-style weapons

Face masks for teachers can impact learning on young children, experts say

Face coverings, mandatory in most indoor public places across the province, can help limit the spread of COVID-19

Horvat scores 2 as Vancouver Canucks beat Blues 5-2 in NHL playoff opener

Game 2 in best-of-seven series goes Friday night

Teachers to get 2 extra days to prepare for students’ return, now set for Sept. 10

Students will first start with orientation and learn rules of COVID-19 classroom policies

Most Read