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

Chilliwack teachers and EAs concerned with health and safety plans

As schools get ready to open, many worry measures won’t be enough to protect students from COVID-19

Mission prison COVID-19 outbreak declared over

Dr. Bonnie Henry hails work done to halt outbreak, which saw more than 130 people contract COVID-19

Police say Chilliwack driver who flipped car on overpass Sunday was impaired

Witnesses say rollover incident was preceded by vehicle and motorcycles speeding all over town

VIDEO: Chilliwack Tourism invites visitors to dream now and explore later

Celebrating Tourism Week with a look at Bridal Veil Falls near Chilliwack

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

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

Mission prison COVID-19 outbreak ends, 9 new cases in B.C.

New positive test at Port Coquitlam care home

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

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

Man who bound, murdered Vancouver Island teen still a risk to public: parole board

Kimberly Proctor’s killer is still ‘mismanaging emotions,’ has had ‘temper tantrums’

VIDEO: Humpback whales put on quite a show

The ‘playful’ pod lingered by a Campbell River tour operator’s boat for quite some time

Getting hitched at historic B.C. gold rush town still on table during COVID-19 pandemic

Micro-weddings, online visits, offered at Barkerville Historic Town and Park

VIDEO: Police look for suspect seen tripping elderly woman in Burnaby

The elderly woman was walking near the SkyTrain station when she was randomly tripped

Revelstoke woman finds welcoming letter on her Alberta-registered truck

There have been multiple reports online of vandalism to vehicles with Alberta licence plates

Spirit bear possibly spotted in West Kootenay

A local resident spotted the white-coloured bear while on an evening trail run near Castlegar on May 27

B.C. businesses ‘can’t shoulder burden’ of COVID-19 sick pay

Trudeau’s plan should be tied to federal emergency aid

Most Read