Serpent River First Nation, ON – Just over six months ago, Canada legalized cannabis and opened the door to enormous opportunities for those First Nation communities and entrepreneurs who want to get in on the ground floor of a new green economy. The fact that the federal government had done little or no consultation with First Nations has become a blessing in disguise. The door is wide open for First Nation control of cannabis.
We have already seen that both Canada and the provinces have had difficulty with the major Licenced Producers, who have not been able to meet the demand. Some of these producers have tried to cut corners by growing in facilities that have not been licenced. Others have produced inferior cannabis products.
Can our communities control the licensing, cultivation, and sale of cannabis and hemp? Yes. Will our community members benefit from long-term employment in the cannabis industry? Yes. First Nations can do a better job of protecting their community members while generating wealth and improving health through a natural, green industry.
We have already seen First Nation dispensaries open across the country. Every single one appears to be doing a booming business by selling safe, quality products, mostly to mainstream consumers. More importantly, First Nation cannabis retailers have established a reliable national supply chain of products that is far superior to that of the Licenced Producers.
The challenge that First Nations now face is to ensure that we will be able to cultivate, process, and retail cannabis that is entirely legal and legitimate in the eyes of the federal and provincial governments. From a policy perspective, Bimaadzwin has been involved since Day One to help make this a reality. By keeping the door open to government approval, we can establish our own stream of wealth that will transform our economies.
At the end of the day, First Nation involvement in the cannabis industry is all about our communities. Unlike the tobacco industry where only a few become rich, we now have the opportunity to spread the wealth, which will improve the health and well-being of our communities.
In the coming months, those First Nations who want to become involved in the industry must work together based upon sovereignty and jurisdiction. We must engage with the federal and provincial governments to ensure harmonization with mainstream Canada. In fact, we must be able to prove that First Nation cannabis products are equal or superior to those approved by Health Canada.
First Nations must act now – together — to capitalize on this new green economy that will continue to grow, and has the potential to generate prosperity for decades and generations to come.