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

Morning Start: The human body contains trace amounts of gold

Your morning start for Friday, August 7, 2020

COLUMN: Listen to those who know about COVID-19

Accurate information is essential when understanding the pandemic

Penticton man wakes to wildfire, forced to evacuate from home

A wildfire sparked off the side of Highway 97 near Penticton on Thursday

Roots & Blues announces ticket giveaway ahead of online festival

The festival is streaming free online this year, but those who pre-register can win passes for 2021.

LETTER: Plants help enhance Summerland

Summerland Public Works has added to beautification

371 British Columbians battling COVID-19, health officials confirm

Thursday (Aug. 6) saw a second straight day of nearly 50 new confirmed cases

B.C. wildfire crews have battled 111 blazes in the last seven days

Twenty-nine fires remain active, as of Friday (Aug 7)

B.C. health minister applauds Kelowna Mayor, council for COVID-19 outbreak response

‘I think they are a model of how we respond’ - said Health Minister Adrian Dix

‘We don’t make the rules’: Okanagan pub owner says staff harassed over pandemic precautions

‘If you have six people plus a baby, guess what? That’s seven’ - West Kelowna Kelly O’Bryan’s owner

Remembering Brent Carver: A legend of Broadway who kept his B.C. roots strong

Over the years, the Cranbrook thespian earned his place as one of Canada’s greatest actors

Vernon social justice group rallies to raise awareness for human trafficking victims

Indigenous women make up 4 per cent of Canadian population, 50 per cent of trafficking victims

Statistics Canada says country gained 419,000 jobs in July

National unemployment rate was 10.9 per cent in July, down from the 12.3 per cent recorded in June

Canada plans $3.6 billion in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. in aluminium dispute

The new Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement that replaced NAFTA went into force on July 1

Canada ‘profoundly concerned’ over China death sentence for citizen in drug case

Police later confiscated more than 120 kilograms of the drug from Xu Weihong’s home

Most Read