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National Indigenous Medical Cannabis Association is launched

by papapuff » Mon Mar 27, 2017 3:50 pm


National Indigenous Medical Cannabis Association is launched

VIDEO:Speech by Kevin Daniels, National Vice President, NIMCA

By Tom Keefer

TYENDINAGA MOHAWK TERRITORY – On Saturday, March 25th, over 30 Indigenous people gathered in Tyendinaga to formally launch a national Indigenous organization to promote and defend the Indigenous relationship to the cannabis plant.

Named NIMCA – the National Indigenous Medical Cannabis Association – the association is aiming to have branches in every province in Canada. Saturday’s meeting was a followup to an initial meeting held in Tyendinaga on January 28th, 2017.

At the meeting an interim National Executive was selected and sworn in. The national organization is comprised of representatives from each province and a President, Secretary and Treasurer. The composition of the National Executive is as follows: Tim Barnhart (Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory), President; Kevin Daniels (Gordon First Nation), Vice-President; Lynda Laween (Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory), Treasurer; Andrew Bainsbridge, Manitoba representative; Antoinette Cruz, British Columbia representative; Kim Dessarlais, Saskatchewan representative; Brian Marquis (Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory), Ontario representative; Alvin Manitopyes, Alberta representative; Dave Moss, Yukon representative; Clifton Nicholas (Kanehsatake), Quebec representative.

The terms of office of all national executive members is for 5 years, at which point a new executive will be elected by the membership.

The various provincial organizations may have smaller regional boards, and are affiliated to the larger national whole. Ontario is currently the only province to have a fully formed board. Its board met after the national meeting and agreed to affiliate to the national organization. The members of the Ontario board are: Brian Marquis (Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory), President; Rob Stevenson, Vice-President (Alderville First Nation); Wendy Phillips (Wasauksing First Nation) Secretary/Treasurer, and board members Jordan Brant (Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory), Neecha Duplais (Ojibway Nation of Saugeen), Jamie Simon, and Kevin Shaganash (Constance Lake First Nation).

The Ontario organization is now involved in a membership drive. Individual memberships cost $25. Both the national and the provincial organization will be headquartered at 346 York Rd, in Tyendinaga at the New Legacy 420 building. The national executive will be meeting quarterly.
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by papapuff » Tue Mar 28, 2017 10:14 am

Montreal Gazette

Not a pipe dream: Aboriginals set sights on selling marijuana

Published on: March 28, 2017

With the federal government on the verge of creating a multi-billion dollar legal marijuana industry, Brian Marquis worries aboriginal people will be left high and dry.

Marquis, 57, is a patient at the Legacy 420 dispensary on the Tyendinaga Mohawk territory near Kingston, Ont. And after nearly three years of frequenting the business, he says he has seen the financial potential and medical benefits of cannabis.

Now he wants to see storefront dispensaries sprout up in reserves across Canada: providing an economic engine that will help lift indigenous people out of poverty and, he says, provide an antidote to Canada’s opioid addiction crisis.

One of Marquis’s Quebec associates told the Montreal Gazette there is interest in opening dispensaries in the Kanesatake Mohawk territory as well as on Algonquin and Innu reserves.

This may seem like a pipe dream, but Marquis recently took steps to make this a reality. On Monday, Marquis signed legal papers incorporating the National Indigenous Medical Cannabis Association — a group aimed at regulating the sale of medical marijuana within Canada’s indigenous territories.

The organization met in Tyendinaga last week to elect representatives from 10 provinces, establish bylaws and schedule its next board election in 2022.

“We’re not waiting for the federal government on this, we’re going to do what we have to do,” said Marquis, who was elected president of NIMCA’s Ontario chapter. “Canada can do its own thing, we’re a sovereign people on sovereign land. They’re not going to stop us.”

About 130,000 people buy cannabis through Health Canada’s medical marijuana program, ordering it directly from one of 40 federally licensed producers. Experts say it’s these licensed producers — some of which are valued north of $1 billion — that will come to dominate the recreational market when the federal government legalizes it in 2018.

As it stands, the legal system works against the dispensary model that Marquis’s group advocates. Under the Criminal Code, it’s illegal to sell medical marijuana out of a storefront.

But Marquis argues that the Mohawks’ status as a sovereign people — codified in colonial-era documents like the Jay Treaty, Simcoe Deed and Two Row Wampum Treaty — shields dispensaries from criminal prosecution, federal regulation and taxation.

This could prove problematic if the dispensaries openly court a non-indigenous clientele, one police source told the Montreal Gazette. And while Legacy 420 enjoys a good working relationship with the Tyendinaga band council, there’s no guarantee this will be the case on other territories.

“If it’s the will of the people to have a dispensary here, then so be it,” said Serge Simon, Grand Chief of the Kanesatake Mohawk band council. “I think it’s something that would be best regulated through band council. You don’t want this to become a free-for-all. One thing’s for sure, nothing happens without the community’s say so.”

Clifton Nicholas is NIMCA’s Quebec representative and a lifelong resident of Kanesatake. Nicholas says a dispensary in Kanesatake would be a net plus for the Mohawk community of 1,600. The 45-year-old says he’s reaching out to other indigenous communities to recruit new members into NIMCA — which will set quality-control standards and other regulations within the industry.

After electing a provisional board of governors for the Quebec chapter, Nicholas says he’ll register it as a corporation. After that, he’ll work on securing financial backing for a dispensary on the North Shore Mohawk territory.

“This isn’t a cash grab, we’re going to be fully above board, fully regulated and the money’s going right back into the community,” said Nicholas, a documentary filmmaker. “About two years ago, we had a young man here die of an opiate overdose and many here struggle with addiction. I see cannabis as a way of curbing that opiate use.”

An American study, released Monday, found that hospitals in states with legal recreational marijuana are seeing a 23 per cent drop in the number of people seeking treatment for opioid addiction. The study also suggests a 13 per cent drop in treatment for opioid overdoses.

Marquis says it was cannabis that helped him taper off painkillers after he slipped on a patch of ice and broke his back 12 years ago. At the peak of his opioid use, Marquis was popping four 80 mg pills of OxyContin every day.

“I went to my doctor, I said, ‘Doc, I think I’m gonna just quit these things, they’re not really working for me,’ ” said Marquis. “He laughed, he slapped his knee and he said, ‘Brian, you will never get off those.’ After that I got my medical licence to use cannabis and never took a pill again. It wasn’t perfect, I’m not one of these people who claims it cures everything, but it helped me with the withdrawal.”

Nicholas compares the potential of cannabis dispensaries to that of the aboriginal tobacco trade — a billion dollar market dominated by the Mohawks in upstate New York, Quebec and Ontario. Through a series of court victories, Canada has recognized the Mohawks’ right to manufacture and sell cigarettes on-reserve without charging sales tax to other aboriginal people.

In reality, however, many non-indigenous Canadians take advantage of the tax loophole and buy cigarettes at a heavily discounted rate on reserves. This gave rise to a business that, while it operates in a legal grey area, has afforded the Mohawks a level of economic independence enjoyed by few other nations across Canada.

But Nicholas also offers a word of caution.

“With tobacco, there’s this trap of just making money and not necessarily giving it back to the community,” he said. “Cannabis has to be about the creating something sustainable, something where we reinvest the profits in our languages, our culture and traditions. It’s an industry of the future, it’s something that’s breaking new ground in the medical field, but it’s also something that can help us preserve our past.”
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by papapuff » Thu Apr 13, 2017 12:21 pm

First Nations aim to capitalize on economic opportunity of legal pot industry

Some already investing in medical marijuana, want Ottawa to include them in discussions

By Tim Fontaine, CBC News Posted: Apr 13, 2017

First Nations want to be among those cashing in on what could become a multibillion-dollar industry if the federal government follows through on making marijuana a legal recreational drug in Canada.

The Trudeau government's goal is to make legalization a reality on or before July 1, 2018. Several First Nations are already trying to get into into the business of producing pot.

"It means economic opportunities for First Nations people … and so many First Nations across this country are in such dire straits," said Allan Adam, chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, a fly-in community in northern Alberta.

Getting in

Allan said his community is exploring investing in a company that's already producing medical marijuana — as a start. If recreational marijuana is legalized, he said, the First Nation will already have its foot in the door.

"Until it becomes recreational, we have to invest in medical."

Other First Nations have gone beyond exploring and have invested millions in cannabis ventures, like the Wahgoshig First Nation near Kirkland Lake, Ont., which partnered with an Ontario company called DelShen Therapeutics in 2015 to convert a former forestry operation into a facility that will grow "pharmaceutical-grade" pot.

Former Assembly of First Nations head Phil Fontaine also recently moved into the medical marijuana business with his company, Indigenous Roots.

"Our primary interest here, of course, is business opportunities, job creation. It's about the Indigenous economy, job opportunities, and it's about training," Fontaine told CBC News in December 2016.

Business opportunities

The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake in Quebec announced in March that it was on a "fact-finding mission," seeking information about the medical cannabis industry. The community's website says the council now has a Cannabis Working Group.

In an email, political press attache Joe Delaronde said the council "has made no secret of its very preliminary exploration of potential business opportunities in the medical marijuana field."

In an appearance on Kahnawake Television, a local station, council Chief Rhonda Kirby said leadership was also investigating other possible opportunities.

"We are looking for partnerships with people that are already licensed providers, and in anticipation of the federal law being passed in 2018, what would that mean for the community if a recreational [marijuana] law was passed?"

At the Assembly of First Nations annual meeting in Gatineau, Que., in December 2016, chiefs unanimously supported a resolution introduced by Chief Adam, which directs the organization to push Ottawa for "priorities and incentives to ensure that First Nations are given the opportunity to participate and benefit fully from the development of this new and emerging sector."

Risks vs. benefits

One issue that's likely going to come up when First Nations invest in recreational marijuana, Adam admits, is the health aspect — especially in those communities that are already grappling with addiction issues.

While he's willing to make money off any new pot industry, Adam said there still needs to be discussion between Canada and Indigenous communities before legalization.

"You can't just impose something that's going to have detrimental effects on our communities," he said.

He wants to see money from the business of pot invested in programs in First Nations communities, especially those aimed at youth.

"It's a win-win situation for Canada and it's a win-win situation for First Nations."
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by papapuff » Sun Apr 30, 2017 11:15 am

Yahoo News

Quebec chief urges caution as First Nations look to capitalize on pot legalization

CBC April 30, 2017

As several First Nations communities consider entering the recreational cannabis business, one prominent Quebec Indigenous leader is sounding alarm bells.

Businesses have approached Indigenous communities in the province in the hopes of setting up pot-production operations, attracted by the tax-free status on reserves.

Given the federal government's plans to legalize marijuana by July 2018, some anticipate pot-production could develop into a multi-billion dollar industry.

But Ghislain Picard, the chief of the Assembly of First Nations for Quebec and Labrador, questions whether First Nations in Quebec have the resources to accommodate such an industry.

"If I look around me today, the concerns regarding the bill, and eventually the law, certainly outweigh the economic opportunities," Picard told CBC Montreal on Friday.

"Speaking of public safety, for instance, we're not equipped the same way the provincial police is equipped, or municipal police of that matter. It's much broader than just recreational aspects and the medical aspects of the product."

Picard argues there needs to be more research and program development before communities enter the commercial marijuana market.

"How do we ensure that a product that is still illegal, which will become legal, how do you make sure you have programs that will prevent abuse?" he asked.

Exploring what's out there

The issue has prompted mixed reactions from First Nations communities in Quebec.

The Huron-Wendat community of Wendake recently rejected any kind of pot business on its territory. But Kahnawake, located on Montreal's South Shore, is considering its options after companies approached the band council.

Chief Gina Deer, who is in charge of Kahnawake's economic development portfolio, contends that recreational marijuana could bring a new source of money and create employment opportunities for the Mohawk territory.

"We've told people that until we meet with the community we can't give a definite answer," said Deer. "It hasn't stopped us from exploring what's out there because this is going to be a very big industry."

Residents for the most part seem to be in favour of legalization and are excited by the prospect of more local jobs. Their support, though, does come with some caveats.

"I think it would be a good idea because of the jobs, but I think it would be safer for the community, making sure it stays out of anybody under the age of 18 hands," said Ciera Lahache.

Investing back into communities

Deer also says that extra financial support would help Kahnawake fund cultural programs that are integral to its survival.

"Our big stride is to regain the language, the culture — we'd like to invest in that," she said. "That's why we go out looking for economic opportunities."

Kahnawake will hold public information sessions with residents in May, but it could still be years before a project breaks ground.

Picard, however, is urging caution. He wants more consultations between First Nations and the federal government in the near future to address both concerns and potential benefits.

"I think there needs to be more talk," he said. "We're meeting our chiefs in less than two months and this issue is definitely on the agenda."
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by papapuff » Tue Jul 11, 2017 10:29 am

Belleville Intelligencer

Police, Chief say Mohawk pot illegal

By Jason Miller, The Intelligencer
Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Mohawk police chief is set to initiate ‘proactive policing’ to address the proliferation of illegal marijuana dispensaries on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.

“There is a plan of action, but I’m not looking to put it out at this point,” said chief Ron Maracle about potential police initiatives to crack down on the dispensaries which have been warned about the risk of continuing operation without proper licences. “I still have another meeting with chief and council, on Monday, before I put my plan in action.”

No raids have been conducted to date, but Maracle said he has met with some of the organizations.

“Technically they are illegal, but obviously there are legalities around that,” he said. “There is some grey area, but they’re illegal.”

The police chief is aware of efforts by the federal government to revamp rules around marijuana use and sale, which has sparked an unprecedented proliferation of dispensaries operations nationwide.

“It’s got to be done properly,” he said. “There has to be a process that allows for these dispensaries to operate in a way that’s not only safe for the community but safe for individuals that are attending them.”

Safety is paramount until the federal rules are clearly defined, said Maracle.

“Until such time, you have no idea what’s being sold,” he said. “That’s part of the issue we’re dealing with as well.”
Maracle said more than five operations have cropped up on the reserve.

“There is a lot more than five,” he said. “It is at a point now, where there has to be some proactive policing conducted. What that will look like is yet to be seen.”

People have been flooding into the reserve to purchase from the establishments, but the police chief warns that they too could be liable for buying from illegal operations.

“They’re not sanctioned, nor do they have any control on what’s being sold, and anybody in there buying from them could be subjected to being charged, until the government passes legislation that makes it OK,” said Maracle.

The grey area created by potential rule changes in Ottawa makes it increasingly difficult for enforcement.

“It’s a grey area,” said Maracle. “They (government) have put the cart before the horse. It’s difficult for enforcement purposes.”

Chief R. Donald Maracle said the Mohawk band council has made it clear it won’t be endorsing the marijuana dispensaries on the territory.

“They’re not legal,” he said. “The police have already gone around to the businesses to make them aware of that. People are anticipating that the laws are going to change, so they’re setting up much earlier than the law.”

Chief Maracle said the dispensaries have not been issued licences by council and there is no plan to do so.

“Council cannot assure the quality of the product,” he said. “Marijuana sold in other jurisdictions has been found to be laced with fentanyl, so that is a concern.”

It is now in the hands of the police.

“The enforcement of the law is a police decision,” said Chief Maracle.
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by papapuff » Tue Jul 18, 2017 1:14 pm

National Post

Legal weed could be a conduit to reconciliation, says former AFN chief

'Clearly the revitalization of First Nations economies is one expression of reconciliation,' said Phil Fontaine

July 18, 2017
3:48 PM EDT

OTTAWA — Former Assembly of First Nations chief Phil Fontaine says his pitch to produce medical marijuana on reserves is getting lots of attention from Indigenous communities hoping to get into a potentially lucrative industry.

About 100 First Nation communities and business interests are keen on the enterprise, he told the National Post this week, though some stigma remains around cannabis and its production.

Fontaine’s own company Ishkonigan launched a partnership in December with licensed weed producer Cronos Group, and will break ground on a flagship operation in Armstrong, B.C. later this summer. Ishkonigan has a 51 per cent share of the venture, which is expected to be operational in about eight months.

The first location is not on a reserve, but the partners intend to franchise operations on Indigenous land across Canada, with communities owning big chunks of each franchise, and thus sharing in the profit.

According to the plan for the fledgling business, called Indigenous Roots, the Armstrong operation would initially have the potential to produce 3,000 kg per year or more, and serve about 8,000 patients. At full capacity it could expect to generate $1.5 million in monthly revenue and create 25 jobs at the facility, plus 15 more for education, outreach, marketing and customer service.

In an interview in Ottawa Monday, Fontaine argued the private sector — though full of powerful influencers and bureaucracies, just like government — can be a major conduit for reconciliation.

“Clearly the revitalization of First Nations economies is one expression of reconciliation. And so that means that we ought to be able to participate and engage in every sector,” he said.

“It’s really about moving away from being dependent on government and creating our own capacity, our own source revenue so that we’re in a position to make our own investment decisions that will be beneficial to the interests of our communities and citizens.”

Many of the major industries located on Indigenous land are connected to resource development, with local communities typically not involved as owners or investors.

But with medical marijuana, and the recreational market that would ultimately result from the Liberal government’s promised legalization, there’s an opportunity for those communities to get in at the beginning of an emerging market. “There’s absolutely no reason why we can’t be a central player in this sector,” Fontaine said.

Part of the appeal comes from tax breaks afforded to businesses located on First Nations territories. “There are obvious tax benefits if we establish on reserve. So we want to take full advantage of that situation,” he said.

“We are focused on providing quality service for a safe, reliable health product. And we want to, of course, focus on wealth creation, capacity building, jobs, training, and all of the ancillary opportunities that will result once we are up and running.”

Products from the operation would be marketed to Indigenous people, whom Fontaine called an “underserved community” as far as medical marijuana goes. The government has done nothing to discourage this plan, Fontaine said.

He also appears optimistic the operation could reap rewards from the recreational market, which would open up by July of next year if the government passes legislation it introduced in the spring.

“We know that the businesses that are now viewed as well-established are going to have an advantage come July 1, 2018, so we recognize that,” he said.

Some First Nations, especially in Ontario and Quebec, are known for tobacco production. Canada’s major contraband tobacco producers are also located on First Nations reserves.

Though Fontaine said his focus has been on medical cannabis and developing in-house expertise in that area, “you just can’t dismiss the know-how that exists out there now. So, I think it makes sense to look at that, and see if there are any benefits to taking advantage of the expertise, the experience and the know-how that’s been developed outside of the legal framework, meaning legalized cannabis.”

Fontaine left politics about eight years ago but didn’t shy from praising the Trudeau government for its “encouraging words” and increasing funding for First Nations issues. He commended the business community for being open to working with Indigenous actors.

“When I think of reconciliation, I think of eradication of mass poverty in our communities. Poverty has paralyzed our communities for a long, long time and so we need to move away from that and create the kinds of economies that will generate … not just the interest but the kind of activity that will make our communities strong, healthy, vibrant places,” he said.

“It’s really believing in ourselves, trusting in our abilities and making every effort to make a real contribution in our own right.”
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by papapuff » Wed Aug 30, 2017 5:37 pm

Peterborough Examiner

Medicine Wheel dispensary owner has dialogue with police

By Valerie MacDonald, Northumberland Today
Wednesday, August 30, 2017

ALDERVILLE - The owner of Medicine Wheel Natural Healing of Alderville First Nation says he has an ongoing dialogue with Northumberland OPP to ensure he meets their concerns about public safety and to let the police know what he is doing.

The new healing, medical marijuana dispensary is located at 8986 County Road 45 and Rob Stevenson says he sells both cannabis and non-cannabis products.

“I hope (the police) will respect our rights,” Stevenson said in an interview at the business that saw hundreds of people visit during last Saturday’s official opening and to register at the first Indigenous medical cannabis dispensary outside of Tyendinaga.

“I don’t have a criminal record” and don’t have criminal ties of any kind and “I feel I’m protected by our United Nations treaty rights to operate this kind of business helping people and my community,” Stevenson explained.

But how the police, who closed down South Shore Wellness on the other side of the county road last year, will act “absolutely is a concern,” Stevenson said quite bluntly.

That’s why Stevenson has a lot of interaction and dialogue with police to meet with them and explain the standards he uses in his business dealing with public-and-product safety, as well as the coming changes when recreational marijuana use is legalized by the federal government next summer.

Officers have been trained that cannabis is an illegal and illicit substance and not about the healing aspects of it, he explained. It will take a longer time to change perception, Stevenson said.

Vehicles were lined up along the roadway during the official opening last Saturday and periodically police patrolled along the county roadway where the Roseneath Rodeo was also taking place last weekend.

“The police were out there but not targeting people from our store,” said Stevenson who is also the Ontario vice-president of the National Indigenous Medical Cannabis Association which is working with Health Canada to get First Nation growers licenced in order to fill the coming shortfall in cannabis products.

The existing federal licencing system is lengthy and too costly for First Nations, he said, where there already exist experienced marijuana growers who are part of the “black market” at this time.

Health Canada allows up to 17 herbicides and pesticides in the marijuana produced by its licenced marijuana growers, but Stevenson’s goal is to have control over natural and organically-grown plants from “seed to sale.”

There is a growing market and this is a good business for First Nations people whom Stevenson vows he will help establish in their own businesses. He already employs 10 Alderville First Nation staff where, among other services, a lab will test grown or purchased marijuana for mould and purity.

In a newsletter about his business, Stevenson is quoted as stating that “anyone else who opens up a dispensary on this reserve, or any other reserve, I’m glad to share any of my information here. I’m documenting everything I’ve done, from security and renovations to training employees, product education...I’m willing to share all this information at no cost to the people who will do do this.

“The reason being, I want to see this done right and I don’t want dispensaries to be seen in a negative light because people are doing them wrong.”

Part of the way Stevenson’s business is accomplishing this is through daily product training for his staff and security procedures he has put in place, aspects of the Medicine Wheel that he brings to the attention of the police.

And if Stevenson is confronted with a criminal element, he will bring that to the attention of the police as well, he said.

Stevenson says he wanted a new business challenge and to help people and his community, and this healing business venture is filling up a void and answering something for which he has been searching a long time.

He has already received all kinds of testimonials from people since his “soft opening” in June who have been helped with pain and other health issues from the use of salves (some with and some without cannabis), “tinctures” or cannabis drops taken orally, and other products containing THC and CBD, separately or together.

Because THC provides a high, growers were breeding CBD out of marijuana plants but are going back to it now because of the benefits not only singularly but in conjunction with THC, he explained.

Stevenson knows the medical benefits himself, having taken medical drugs for years to combat anxiety and panic attacks.

“I’ve been able to get off my medication by using tinctures under my tongue,” he said. “It’s definitely helping.”

Developing a data bank at his business about clients’ medical issues and how they respond to various products is very important, Stevenson explained. People register and the information is kept confidential but the data (minus names and other identification) is shared with the Association to build a larger data bank of knowledge about how cannabis can heal people and manage pain.

“I’ve always felt empty...that I had a deeper purpose,” Stevenson said.

Helping heal people, receiving testimonials, and doing it in his community by employing and training young people in business, is turning that feeling around in Stevenson.

“I’m filling that void,” he said.
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by papapuff » Fri Sep 08, 2017 12:15 pm

Manitoba First Nation makes major investment in pot company

Chief says $3M stake in National Access Cannabis could help in Opaskwayak Cree Nation's fight against poverty

By Sean Kavanagh, CBC News Posted: Sep 08, 2017

CBC News has learned that the Opaskwayak Cree Nation in Manitoba has taken a major stake in a medical marijuana company, with an eye to becoming a big player in the sale of pot once it becomes legal.

The First Nation, located approximately 530 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, has purchased $3 million worth — approximately 10 per cent — of shares in National Access Cannabis. The privately held company will be traded publicly for the first time Friday on the TSX Venture Exchange.

OCN Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair said the investment represents a shift in thinking. Where marijuana was once part of the war on drugs, the plant will be now be part of the war on poverty in his community, Sinclair said.

"The fact of the matter is [the sale of marijuana] is happening before our eyes and the only people who are profiting is the black market, so this will bring us to the forefront very quickly."

National Access Cannabis currently operates 10 medical marijuana clinics in cities across Canada.

OCN and other investors in the company are counting on provincial governments allowing the private sector to sell pot to customers, instead of setting up provincially run distributors.

The company will not get into the production of pot, instead relying on federally licensed producers for its supply. Sinclair said the production side of the business carried too many pitfalls.

"We found that to be very high-risk and cash-intensive to get it started," Sinclair said.

On top of that, he said, Health Canada may or may not approve a facility to grow the plants. Sinclair said further study of the industry identified the retail side of the business as having the lowest risk and the potential for the highest return.

Sinclair said members of OCN's economic development team went to a presentation earlier this year by National Access Cannabis at the company's downtown Winnipeg location and were impressed by its business strategy and the expertise of its executive team, including president Derek Ogden.

Ogden had previously been a senior RCMP officer, at one time in charge of the Mounties' national drug enforcement program and acting as director general of the force's organized crime branch.

"That really intrigued us — a person of that stature working in this industry," Sinclair said.

Venture gets approval from OCN elders

Sinclair said the idea of investing in the pot business was vetted and accepted unanimously by OCN's leadership and its council of elders.

"They referred to it not as a drug, but as medicine," Sinclair said.

'It's about time," OCN elder Stan Wilson said of the proposal.

"Indigenous people have this connection to their environment and their relationship to nature and plants, and if we do things the proper way, there are benefits for human beings," Wilson said.

He said the long period where marijuana has been stigmatized by its illegal status strikes a chord.

"We have a history with that, with Europeans, because they outlawed so many of our spiritual practices as well as the use of medicines and so on," Wilson said.

OCN has experienced difficulty in reaping benefits from gambling, as poor turnout at its casino in The Pas prompted its leadership to ask for a gaming licence in Winnipeg — something Premier Brian Pallister flatly rejected.

Sinclair said selling pot and running casinos are two completely different businesses, but he hopes the province gets on board with the private sale of weed.

"This one is a different opportunity … we would hope the province, which is big on economic development, would see this as an opportunity for First Nations and Indigenous communities to participate heavily and actively in this field," Sinclair said.

He said there might be employment opportunities for his members in the retail side of the business, but he hopes the investment will pay dividends OCN can reinvest in the community.

Other Indigenous group eye pot business

The province's Progressive Conservative government has not signaled what its intentions for retailing marijuana are, instead focusing first on public safety issues. The premier has asked Ottawa to delay legalization.

Mark Goliger, the CEO of National Access Canada, sees pitfalls for governments selling pot through their own outlets.

"Would you divert $20 million of taxpayers' [money] out of health care, education, infrastructure support — to create a Cannabis Control Board of Manitoba, to service rural locations, with a hope and a prayer that it's going to return a greater benefit?" Goliger said.

OCN isn't the first Indigenous group to get into the marijuana business. Phil Fontaine, who was previously the grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, is now the lead of Indigenous Roots, a medicinal cannabis company.

The Wahgoshig First Nation near Kirkland Lake, Ont., has partnered with an Ontario company called DelShen Therapeutics to grow "pharmaceutical-grade" pot.
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by papapuff » Mon Sep 25, 2017 11:16 am

Toronto Star

Marijuana debate leaves First Nations weighing pros and cons

“What the communities are obviously going to be looking at is how far we go with this. Do we accept it fully? Do we accept it in part? Or do we just say ‘Absolutely not’?” said Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Isadore Day.

By ALLAN WOODSQuebec Bureau
Sun., Sept. 24, 2017

MONTREAL—Is it a cash crop to lift struggling First Nations out of poverty, or a vice posing a particular risk for a vulnerable population?

As Canada forges ahead with the legalization of marijuana, slated for July 2018, Indigenous people are split about what to do on their territory.

A number of First Nations have signed investment deals with marijuana producers, lured by the promise of profits and other benefits. Others have slammed on the brakes until they can draw up their own rules for growing and selling what is, for a few more months, an illegal drug.

“What the communities are obviously going to be looking at is how far we go with this. Do we accept it fully? Do we accept it in part? Or do we just say ‘Absolutely not’?” said Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Isadore Day, who represents Ontario.

The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake, south of Montreal, issued a moratorium earlier this month on the production, distribution and sale of cannabis on its territory until such time as it can adopt its own regulations.

Summer consultations revealed there is support for establishing marijuana-related businesses in the community and an appreciation of the therapeutic uses of the drug. But there are also significant health and public safety concerns, said Kahnawake Council Chief Gina Deer.

“We’re a vulnerable population and due to that there’s concern about legalization and the abuse of (marijuana), because we’ve also seen the abuse of alcohol,” she said. “Yes, it’s a good tool for certain things and it is used in the medical industry, but it can’t become a crutch and that’s the fear being a vulnerable population.”

Deer said the marijuana moratorium in Kahnawake became an urgent matter for the community only after a recent trip west along Highway 401 to visit the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, near Belleville, Ont., where cannabis capitalism has run amok.

There are currently 16 marijuana dispensaries—some run out of storefront operations, others run out of peoples’ homes.

None are registered businesses with the band council and all are technically illegal, the Tyendinaga council said in a statement this summer. But there is little impetus or urgency by police or prosecutors to shut the unlicensed pot shops down and lay charges.

“The council did meet with the federal Crown attorney, who advised us that the judges in the Belleville court do not want to hear these cases, that it’s not a good use of court resources and time, and the police believe that it’s a grey area, so there’s really no law enforcement,” Tyendinaga Chief Don Maracle said in an interview.

Everyone is looking for direction. First Nations representatives from both Quebec and Ontario are meeting with their respective provincial government officials this week to discuss the matter, though many Indigenous communities don’t know themselves what direction to take.

“There are some communities who are saying that Canada can do what it wants but in terms of our community we’re the sole entity who will decide,” said AFN Regional Chief Ghislain Picard, who represents Quebec and Labrador.

“At the same time some chiefs are saying that it’s going to happen so let’s be ready for it and if there are economic spinoffs from it, it’s for the benefit of the community.”

Chief Day said the AFN wants to ensure that provincial taxes collected on marijuana sales and federal excise taxes paid by marijuana producers come back to Indigenous communities.

“If there is an uptake of, say, $300-million in excise tax from a facility that goes to the federal government, why wouldn’t that excise tax be placed in First Nations to ensure our health systems can become much more able to deal with the health issues and impacts of addiction?” he asked.

The Wahgoshig First Nation, with a registered population of about 230 people, is far ahead of the others. Located about 100 kilometres north of Kirkland Lake, Ont., near the border with Quebec, it was the first Indigenous community in the country to sign an investment and benefits deal with a medicinal marijuana producer.

In return for a $3-million investment in Delshen Therapeutics in November 2015, which operates its cannabis facility out of a former Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources tree nursery on Wahgoshig territory, the company was offering a seat on its board, employment guarantees and funding for a drug and alcohol treatment centre, said Mylon Ollila, Wahgoshig’s executive director.

At first there was debate about the ethics of investing in cannabis. But it was not so difficult to rationalize involvement in marijuana cultivation in a community that is otherwise reliant on non-renewable industries like mining.

“First Nations have been harvesting traditional medicines and plant medicines for generations. This is something that already was much more aligned with First Nations’ values,” Ollila said, adding that marijuana’s medicinal attributes could also help deal with the community’s prescription painkiller problems.

“We kind of see it as replacing something that has been harmful to our community.”

Since that deal was signed, 48 other First Nations communities have also invested in Delshen Therapeutics. That has been the work of Jacob Taylor and Jonathan Araujo, the Indigenous advisers for the cannabis company and founders of the Pontiac Group, which work on First Nations economic development.

Araujo said there have been a range of reactions to the idea of partnering with a medicinal marijuana company.

“Some people who morally object to it still see the economic impact and the inevitability of its arrival,” he said. “Other people object on moral grounds and still have no interest in it.”

“On the flip side,” said Taylor, “this is a plant and it is in line with our Indigenous values. We’ve consulted elders and traditional healers and they’ve advised us that this is a plant that they used for medicine.”
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by papapuff » Tue Oct 03, 2017 11:04 am

The North Bay Nugget

Give First Nations priority access to marijuana industry

Monday, October 2, 2017

By Joseph Quesnel

The legalization of marijuana in Canada in July 2018 gives the federal government an opportunity to bring communities - including Indigenous ones - into this lucrative sector in a big way.

For example, Manitoba's Opaskwayak Cree Nation recently took a major stake in a medical marijuana company. OCN purchased $3 million in shares in National Access Cannabis, a privately held company that recently traded publicly for the first time.

Private investors in medical and recreational marijuana are watching intently as the federal government unveils its plans for how pot will be legally grown and sold in Canada.

OCN is certainly not the only Indigenous community expressing a keen interest in the legal pot industry. The National Post reported in mid-July that 100 First Nation communities and business interests - and many non-Indigenous groups - are interested in the emerging industry.

The marijuana market, for the moment, is largely untaxed and unregulated, with the exception of medical marijuana production and sales. The black market controls the recreational pot industry.

Last year, business services firm Deloitte released a major study on legalized marijuana in Canada. It said the total annual impact on the nation's economy from a legalized market would be $12.7 billion to $22.6 billion.

The study authors point out that pot sales could be as large as hard liquor sales in Canada and perhaps as large as wine sales.

Despite its lucrative nature, some First Nation and non-First Nation communities have already decided they want no part in the legalized drug trade.

Others want to ensure that revenue from legal pot goes directly into programs to help the community, as is their right.

Those communities that want to get into the market in a large way should have the access that many private sector parties are demanding. Among those wanting a piece of the pie are big players in Canada's pharmaceutical industry, like Shoppers Drug Mart.

Given often alarming poverty rates, particularly in remote locations with few economic prospects, First Nations should receive priority access to the marijuana industry from the federal government. Many Indigenous communities want more opportunities beyond casinos and illegal smoke shacks. The government should give them this opportunity.

This is especially important for provinces such as Manitoba, home to the poorest reserves in Canada.

As well, priority should be given to small non-Aboriginal municipalities when granting industry licences.

The federal government's goal of ensuring legalized marijuana is carefully regulated is laudable. But that doesn't have to mean that marijuana is only sold to customers in provincially-run distributors. They can play a role, for sure, but they should not crowd out the private sector.

The feds can follow the Colorado's private marijuana distribution model, with a made-in-Canada variation that allows for firm regulations on private sales or a mixed public/private system.

Public sector unions are being self-serving when they claim that only government-run outlets can ensure that legalized marijuana is handled safely and kept out of the hands of minors.

The federal government must listen to all entrepreneurs, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, who are ready to take part in and are investing in this historic economic opportunity. And Indigenous communities deserve broader private sector access.

Joseph Quesnel is a research associate with the think-tank Frontier Centre for Public Policy.
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by papapuff » Fri Oct 13, 2017 3:06 pm

Timmins Press

49 First Nations investing in medical pot

By Emma Meldrum
Friday, October 13, 2017

TIMMINS - Nearly 50 First Nations communities – including at least two in the Timmins area – are investing in medical marijuana.

Matachewan and Wahgoshig First Nations are among the shareholders in DelShen Therapeutics, which is a licensed medical marijuana producer.

Jacob Taylor and Jonathan Araujo of the Pontiac Group have been helping to connect Ontario First Nations groups with the medical marijuana company for the past two years.

“This plant is a medicine, and our focus with DelShen Therapeutics has always been a medical focus, where other companies have a recreational focus,” explained Araujo.

“This is the medicine and the focus that we're bringing as First Nations peoples. We believe that all plants have usage and we understood for many years that this plant is a medicine, and we want to make sure that First Nations, Indigenous world views are brought to this industry, that this industry doesn't turn into a tobacco industry where it's all about profits and commercialization. We want to focus on creating significant change in our health industry,” he said.

The business of medical marijuana is personal for Araujo, whose mother-in-law has been using cannabis oil to fight an aggressive form of brain cancer.

Taylor said First Nations are signing on because of the work of Pontiac Group.

“We've taken it on the road to other communities, marketing it as an excellent opportunity for First Nations,” Taylor said.

“We have been promoting the message that we learned from our elders, that every plant has a healing purpose, so slowly that message has been more and more accepted.”

The duo aren't interested in soon-to-be-legal recreational marijuana.

“We want to shape the message, keep people remembering that this is something that helps people improve their quality of life, not necessarily in a recreational market, where it is, you could argue, escapism from everyday life. This is improving people's everyday, regular quality of life.”

The agreements signed between DelShen and the 49 First Nations groups also have direct positives for the First Nations thanks to community benefit agreements.

Araujo said he thinks these agreements are the first of their kind.

“Most companies who deal with First Nations communities and especially in the resource sector, will have an impact benefit agreement because they're extracting natural resources from traditional territories,” he explained.

“In our business, DelShen Therapeutics is not extracting any resources, however, they created the first of its kind, a community benefit agreement, which has higher priorities for First Nation employment, it allows for moneys to be put into communities for addiction and substance abuse programs, as we are really underfunded for those types of programs.”

The Daily Press reached out to Wahgoshig First Nation's executive director, Mylon Ollila, who declined to comment. Matachewan First Nation is a partner with Wahgoshig in a cannabis investment company, Mashkiki Investment LP. That company's president, Ann Batisse, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

DelShen's president, Dr. Barry Kurtzer, told The Daily Press in March that there's potential for the company to expand into recreational marijuana, depending on regulations imposed by the government when it's legalized next year.

“We have copious room for development if it seems that it's favourable for us to entertain going into the recreational market,” said Kurtzer.
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by papapuff » Wed Oct 18, 2017 10:32 am

Standard Freeholder

Cannabis company on Akwesane a go

By Lois Ann Baker, Cornwall Standard-Freeholder
Wednesday, October 18, 2017

AKWESASNE — It’s been three years in the making, but Seven Leaf is ready to open a much anticipated medical cannabis company on Cornwall Island.

Seven Leaf is a Mohawk owned company and has been wading through the lengthy and exhaustive Health Canada licensing process. And all that hard work is about to pay off, as on Monday the multi-million dollar investment will finally be hearing the jackhammers that will renovate a building on Cornwall Island in the Akwesasne territory.

This is the first step of the retrofit construction that will be home to Seven Leaf, a first Nations medical cannabis company.

The company has almost completed the extensive multi-stage process to obtain a federal license from Health Canada to produce medical cannabis under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations. The plant should be in operation during the first quarter of 2018 and expects to create 75 to 100 new jobs for the community.

The executive team comprised of Lewis Mitchell, Lorraine White and Michael (Gus) Pyke first embarked on developing Seven Leaf in May 0f 2014. Mitchell, president of Seven Leaf, is a 23-year veteran of the Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service and served as Chief of Police. He witnessed several cases of illicit drug abuse and saw firsthand the dangers of black market laced substances. Mitchell is now dedicated to fighting the chronic pain and suffering he has seen in his community and in other First Nations by providing relief with the therapeutic effect of medical cannabis.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to provide medical cannabis relief to First Nations people and Canadians battling a range of conditions,” said Mitchell. “The journey to get to the point of commencing with construction has taken years of work. We are energized to see the company come to life with active construction and look forward to bringing competitive paying jobs to Akwesasne in the near future.”

Mitchell believes a solidly regulated system will mean a safer community by reducing criminal activity and thereby reducing the burden on police and the court system, and prohibit youth access. It will also diversify the economy and generate significant revenue sharing with First Nations governments benefitting health, education, social services and cultural programs.

White will act as the Chief Compliance Officer and Chief Legal Counsel. She has been in private practice for over 20 years and in 2005 was the youngest female elected to serve as Chief for the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe.

“Seven Leaf has been working arduously for years now, adhering to every letter of the law, following strict standards for a fully compliant, legally licensed medical cannabis company,” said White. “There have been a million hoops to jump through and a maze of rules and regulations, so it is with relief and excitement that we take this giant step forward as we enter this burgeoning new industry. Seven Leaf will deliver an undeniable boost to the economy.”

Pyke, the third member of the executive team is a trusted pharmacist in Akwesasne. His knowledge of traditional pharmaceuticals has led him to understand the benefits of natural pain relieving properties such as medical cannabis. Pyke is the Assistant Director of Quality Assurance.

The plant will be housed in a 46,000 square foot former water bottling plant on Cornwall Island. Contractors have already begun to retrofit the plant. The facility will have a state-of-the-art 24/7/365 extensive interior and exterior security that will monitor every segment of the property.
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by papapuff » Fri Oct 20, 2017 2:19 pm

North Country Now

Former Cornwall Island bottling plant being refitted for Mohawk-owned medical cannabis company

Friday, October 20, 2017 - 3:11 pm

CORNWALL ISLAND – The first phase of retrofit construction has begun on what will be home to Seven Leaf, a developing Mohawk owned and soon-to-be operating medical cannabis company.

Seven Leaf said in a press release that, with a multi-million dollar investment, it is nearing completion of the extensive multi-stage process to obtain a federal license from Health Canada to produce medical cannabis under the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR).

Seven Leaf aims to receive their license to produce in the first quarter of 2018, and will create 75-100 new jobs, the press release said.

The executive team, Lewis Mitchell, Lorraine White, and Micheal “Gus” Pyke -- all Akwesasne Mohawks -- began developing Seven Leaf in May 2014.

Seven Leaf President Lewis Mitchell is a 23-year veteran of the Akwesasne Mohawk Police service, and served as Chief of Police.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to provide medical cannabis relief to First Nations people and Canadians battling a range of conditions,” said Mitchell. “The journey to get to the point of commencing with construction has taken years of work. We are energized to see the company come to life with active construction and look forward to bringing competitive paying jobs to Akwesasne in the near future.”

Mitchell believes a solidly regulated system will reduce criminal activity, reduce the burden on police and courts, and prohibit youth access. Seven Leaf’s legal medical cannabis company will also diversify the economy and generate significant revenue sharing with First Nations governments benefitting health, education, social service, and cultural programs.

In law enforcement, Mitchell witnessed numerous cases of illicit drug abuse and saw firsthand the dangers of black market-laced substances. Mitchell is now dedicated to fighting the chronic pain and suffering he has seen in his community and in other First Nations, by providing relief with the therapeutic effect of medical cannabis.

Lorraine White, chief compliance officer and chief legal counsel, presided over her private practice for over 20 years and in 2005 was the youngest female elected to serve as chief for the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe.

“Seven Leaf has been working arduously for years now, adhering to every letter of the law, following strict standards for a fully compliant, legally licensed medical cannabis company,” said White. “There have been a million hoops to jump through and a maze of rules and regulations, so it is with relief and excitement that we take this giant step forward as we enter this burgeoning new industry. Seven Leaf will deliver an undeniable boost to the economy.”

Michael “Gus” Pyke has spent his career as a trusted pharmacist for the Akweasasne community. His intimate knowledge of traditional pharmaceuticals has led him to understand the benefits of the natural pain relieving properties of medical cannabis as an alternative to harsher, more addictive opioid treatments. Pyke will support the quality assurance team as the assistant director of quality assurance.

Seven Leaf has acquired a 46,000 sq. ft. former water bottling plant on Cornwall Island. Contractors have begun work to retrofit the plant which will serve as the location for production of medical cannabis.

Seven Leaf anticipates receipt of a license to grow medicinal cannabis upon meeting Health Canada requirements that include proof of readily available physical space, necessary security, record-keeping protocols, and a variety of other requirements.

The facility will have extensive full-time interior and exterior security protection measures that monitor every segment of the property, according to a press release from Seven Leaf.
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by papapuff » Mon Oct 23, 2017 11:48 am

Northumberland Today

Marijuana dispensary operates in grey area

By PETE FISHER, Northumberland Today

Sunday, October 22, 2017

ALDERVILLE - There are different opinions on whether a marijuana dispensary located on Alderville First Nation is legal.

The Medicine Wheel Natural Healing - Indigenous Healing Through Medicinal Cannabis is located on County Road 45 in Alderville, north of Cobourg.

It had a "soft" opening in June and has been doing a brisk business since then.

Owner Rob Stevenson, who lives on Alderville First Nation and belongs to the Bear Clan, said in a interview on the business's Facebook page that it is a holistic healing centre and "creating a economic boom for the community," and also helping people "rise up from poverty."

Stevenson describes himself in the interview as having a lot of morals, values and ethics.

Stevenson said the Medicine Wheel Natural Healing had a "really good acknowledgement from chief and council. They are very supportive of it."

But when contacted by Northumberland Today, Alderville First Nation Chief James Marsden said he couldn't comment on the matter because he is in conflict, as Stevenson is his nephew.

Stevenson said by way of video on the businesses site when a new customer comes in to the store they will go to a "consultation counter" where they fill out a form about ailments.

"We get a lot of information from them," he said. "They get a membership card and everything they purchase goes under their file. "Importance of that is we can monitor how the medications are working for our customers - maybe it's to strong, not strong enough."

Reached by phone, Stevenson said "It's legal. We are on sovereign territory. So the provincial and federal government can't dictate what we do."

Stevenson said it's similar to the tobacco laws. "We're a sovereign nation, so it depends what each community wants to do."

Stevenson said a different dispensary located on Alderville First Nation was raided by OPP last year and the owner was charged.

Even though it was on a reservation, Stevenson said the owner was not Indige and that's why he was charged.

"That's why all my staff are First Nation," he said.

Stevenson said he spoke with Northumberland OPP Insp. Lisa Darling who said the business was fine, but if he was aware any type of criminal element coming in to notify police immediately and police also wanted his security system monitored. Darling didn't respond to requests for comment.

One item Stevenson does add is if people do buy it on the reserve, if they go off, "they could be prosecuted. If they got caught and don't have a prescription, then absolutely they could get in trouble for that."

Staff Sgt. Carolle Dionne, an Ontario Provincial Police media relations coordinator, said if a First Nation community has its own policing service, that service would enforce the laws around medical marijuana dispensaries.

Since there is no First Nation community police in Alderville, it would be up to the Ontario Provincial Police to enforce, she said.

The federal government is proposing to make marijuana legal with strict regulations by July 1, 2018, but until that time, even if a marijuana dispensary is on a reservation, they are still illegal, states the OPP.

"The concern remains with these dispensaries, they are not authorized by the government licensing bodies to dispense marijuana," Dionne said. "Because they are not licensed, they are not authorized. Even today, right now their legal standing and expectation is we're going to enforce the law because it is considered sort of trafficking of illegal products. It's an illegal activity - these dispensaries. Our stance is, if it's illegal we will enforce the law until told otherwise."

Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day, who represents 133 chiefs across Ontario, said marijuana dispensaries on First Nations land is inevitable.

Day said he had been to dispensaries and was "quite impressed by the way some of these dispensaries have started to create a level of excellence in their own facilities.

"If we know dispensaries and distribution and economy is going to be created in the mainstream, why not First Nation?"

But, Day added, "everything right now is illegal."

Day said at this stage, with the new laws taking effect in the near future, there is very little enforcement.

"That moratorium on enforcement seems pretty consistent across the board," he said. "This is I believe why the federal government is moving very quickly to put legislation in place."

Day said although marijuana isn't part of the Indigenous medicine wheel, he explains, "we know that marijuana or the cannabis plant has been part of this continent.

"What our people will tell you is whatever grows on this land, will be part of that relationship that we have and we have every right to co-exist and responsibility to co-exist with that on our land and in our territories."

Day said it's a very important discussion and will be a debate.

"But the direction of medical cannabis, recreational cannabis - it's going to happen and our people will certainly secure our rightful place using it as a formal medicine and using as their economic right."

Some Indigenous communities have made it clear they do not want dispensaries on their land and that is their wish, and right, he said.

"The difference between colonial governments and First Nation governments, despite the fact the Indian Act is there and there is supposed assumed authority the Federal Government has over First Nation people, it simply isn't the case within our communities."

It's a complex question for each community to discuss and also to decide, he said.

Day said just days ago he secured a mandate from the Assembly of First Nations executive and he will be heading up a national working group on cannabis with the Regional Chief in Quebec.

They will be looking at the cannabis legislation on four perspectives, health, social, economic and jurisdictional.

"Our work over the next several months will be to make sure our communities are getting the proper information that we coordinate discussions with various parts of government and that our regions (Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan) have the ability a bit more so they are engagement ready and how provincial jurisdiction will apply and how provinces and territories are going to respond to the Cannabis Act."

"We're working hard to make sure our First Nation are going to be intelligently response to C-45 and 46 and we need to make sure our First Nations are going to be safe, secure and if we can prosper they can do that as well."
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