Indigenous Bloom Corp. opened its first medical marijuana dispensary on the Kwaw-Kwaw-Apilt First Nation reserve on Ashwell Road in Chilliwack on July 5. Another location is planned for Shxwha:y Village, which is also the reserve where the product is being grown. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

Chilliwack First Nations get into growing, selling marijuana before legalization

Feds, province, RCMP say dispensaries on Kwaw-Kwaw-Apilt and Sxhwa:y Village are illegal

Cannabis legalization may be just three months away in Canada but First Nations in Chilliwack aren’t waiting.

A second marijuana dispensary on a local reserve opened its doors last week with a grand opening set for July 11, with a third storefront on the way.

Indigenous Bloom opened its doors to customers on the Kwaw-Kwaw-Apilt reserve on Ashwell Road on July 5 while workers were still on site putting the finishing touches on the medical marijuana dispensary.

And Indigenous Bloom Corp, which is based in Kelowna, is just getting started with some big corporate experience and First Nations leadership on its board.

That includes Chief Isaac Laboucan-Avirom of the Woodland Cree in Alberta, and Robert Louie, former chief of the West Bank First Nation near Kelowna and owner of Indigenous World Winery.

Also on the board are former CEOs of various companies, and former Conservative Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country Ron Cannan.

Kwaw-Kwaw-Apilt Chief Betty Henry said her community is fully behind the venture.

“It is our intention that the operation of a cannabis business must be under the domain of our people,” she said in a statement. “Our purposes include the elimination of criminals who market illegal drugs to our community members, to our youth and to the society at large.”

So where does the marijuana for sale at Indigenous Bloom’s shop come from? Nearby Shxwha:y Village announced its “intended operation” of a licensed producer (LP) cannabis growing facility through Health Canada, in addition to the groundbreaking of its dispensary storefront on Wolfe Road.

“Our tribe has set goals to achieve economic self-sufficiency and to become fully functioning partners in the social and economic welfare of this great country we know as Canada,” Shxwha:y Village Chief Robert Gladstone said. “We are striving to build a better future for our people and this economic initiative will help us to achieve that.”

The bands say they intend to provide high quality products that originate from First Nations businesses, and they want to be part of the cannabis industry to create employment, careers and increase economic development.

In short, Gladstone and Henry say they will not be left out of the emerging industry, adding “The federal and provincial governments collect billions of dollars in tax revenue from tobacco, fuel, alcohol and gambling with little or no return to First Nation communities.”

As for the growing of the product, a visit to a large otherwise unused warehouse at Shxwha:y Village on July 6 showed vehicle activity out front, and in plain sight were plants growing in pots under bright lights visible through an open door.

As for the legality of all this, all levels of government say “no.”

The same day Indigenous Bloom’s dispensary opened up on Ashwell, the Attorney General of B.C. announced that the eligibility requirements for prospective non-medical cannabis retail licence applicants are now available online.

When asked about the storefronts in Chilliwack, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General said “any cannabis retail store currently operating is illegal,” and it’s up to local law enforcement whether or not to take action against them.

“Upon legalization, existing dispensaries will have to close, unless they obtain a licence from the [newly renamed] Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch,” the spokesperson said.

“A new Community Safety Unit … will have the authority to deal with all illegal sales outside the provincial regulatory framework. Cannabis enforcement officers will be able to enter illegal cannabis retailers without a warrant, and will be able to seize illegal product and records. They will also have the authority to impose administrative monetary penalties based on the value of illegal cannabis.”

Someone involved with Indigenous Bloom pointed out that First Nations on reserves do not deal with the provincial government, only the federal government.

So what does Health Canada think? Storefront operations selling cannabis, whether they call themselves “dispensaries” or “compassion clubs” are unlicensed and illegal.

“Until cannabis laws change, and strict regulations and restrictions are put in effect, local police authorities will continue to address illegal cannabis possession and sales,” according to Health Canada media relations officer André Gagnon.

When asked a month ago, the Chilliwack RCMP said only that investigation and charges are possible.

“Businesses and/or individuals operating in contravention of the [Controlled Drugs and Substances Act] and Health Canada regulations may be subject to investigation and criminal charges in accordance with Canadian laws,” according to spokesperson Cpl. Mike Rail.

All this comes nearly two months after The Kure Cannabis Dispensary opened its doors on the Skwah First Nation just off Wolfe Road.

• READ MORE: Marijuana shop opens up on Chilliwack First Nations reserve

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


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

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

 

Plants were visible under bright lights inside a large facility at Shxwha:y Village on July 6. The reserve is home to the licensed producer for Indigenous Bloom, which opened up a dispensary on the Kwaw-Kwaw-Apilt reserve on Ashwell on July 5. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

Just Posted

Second earthquake in two days strikes near Agassiz

A 2.6-magnitude recorded Saturday morning

Province bringing 421 new affordable childcare spaces to Fraser Valley

Supporting early childhood educators and creating spaces go hand in hand, minister says

Aspiring pot-sellers can apply in two weeks to operate stores in Abbotsford

City will accept applications to operate one of four new stores; public consultation to follow

Abbotsford homeless advocate killed by RCMP in Lytton

Barry Shantz spearheaded getting harm-reduction services in city, changing bylaws around homeless

SLIDESHOW: Vancouver Motorcycle Show back in Abbotsford

Annual event runs all weekend long on Tradex

‘Presumptive case’ of coronavirus in Canada confirmed by Ontario doctors

Man in his 50s felt ill on his return to Canada from Wuhan, China

People knowingly take fentanyl so make policy changes to reduce harm: B.C. study

Dr. Jane Buxton, an epidemiologist at the centre, says drug users need more resources,

‘My heart is going to bleed’: Bodies brought back to Canada following Iran plane crash

Remains of Sahar Haghjoo, 37, and her eight-year-old daughter, Elsa Jadidi, were identified last weekend

Surrey tells Uber to cease operations in city, but company ‘respectfully’ declines

Ridesharing company told to stop operating within the city by 9 p.m. Jan. 24

Coronavirus concerns cause cancellation of Langley Lunar New Year celebration

Close to 1,000 were expected to attend the annual Live In Langley event on Saturday

BCLC opens novelty bet on Harry and Meghan moving to the west coast

Meanwhile, real estate agency points to four possible homes for the family

Canada slips in global corruption ranking in aftermath of SNC-Lavalin scandal

The country obtained a score of 77, which places it at the top in the Americas

Wuhan bans cars, Hong Kong closes schools as coronavirus spreads

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said her government will raise its response level to emergency, highest one

Most Read