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

Abbotsford Police Department’s public service counter reopens

Some modified protocols in place for the public due to COVID-19

VIDEO: Abbotsford Time Lapse 2020

YouTube user posts video showing time lapse of several Abbotsford locations

Abbotsford resident receives award from B.C. Historical Federation

Bill Glasgow honoured for work on British Columbia History magazine

VIDEO: #FreeThemAll group protests for prisoner rights in Abbotsford

About 20 participate in car demonstration outside of Matsqui Institution on Sunday

Abbotsford Christian’s Meinen named 2A all-star

Zach Meinen named to provincial all-star squad for 2019-20

Trudeau to seek 10 days of paid sick leave for Canadian workers, says talks are ongoing

Paid sick leave is key to keeping COVID-19 spread under control, prime minister says

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

New platform allows readers to make a one-time or ongoing donation to support local journalism

Vancouver Island hasn’t seen a new homegrown case of COVID-19 in two weeks

Island’s low and steady transmission rate chalked up to several factors

Eight people arrested in Victoria homeless camp after enforcement order issued

Those living in tents were given until May 20 to move indoors

Andrew Weaver says he was ready to defeat John Horgan government

Independent MLA blasts B.C. Greens over LNG opposition

20 dead in COVID-19 outbreak at Langley Lodge

There were two new cases detected, according to the Lodge’s update

44% fewer passengers flew on Canadian airlines in March 2020 than in 2019

COVID-19 pandemic has hit airlines hard as travel remains low

UPDATE: One person dead, two in critical condition after Highway 1 collision in Langley

A man and woman were taken to hospital in critical condition

Commercial rent relief applications open as feds encourage landlords to apply

Program would see government cover 50 per cent of the rent

Most Read