Kahnawà:ke, Health Canada agreement on cannabis rules could spark further First Nations investment
Kahnawà:ke, Health Canada agreement on cannabis rules could spark further First Nations investment
An agreement between one Quebec-based First Nations territory and Health Canada looks to establish new cannabis regulations that could usher in fresh investment and opportunity for Canada's Indigenous communities.
The Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke announced on Monday that it signed a memorandum of understanding with Health Canada that will create a licensing regime alongside the territory's cannabis laws which will allow businesses to pursue cannabis cultivation and processing licences.
While First Nations have been involved in the cannabis industry for some time, their participation ranges broadly from legal operators to grey-market retailers. The federal Cannabis Act provides the legal framework provinces and territories are responsible for determining how cannabis is distributed and sold within their jurisdictions. However, that law does not provide sufficient guidance for how First Nations can sell, grow and process the drug as they are governed under federal purview which supersedes provincial legislation.
While some First Nations-owned cannabis businesses have found success in the Canadian market - Redecan Pharm and AtlantiCann Medical Inc. are two notable examples - much of the industry operates in a flourishing grey market. Ontario's Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, for example, is home to more than three dozen cannabis dispensaries selling unregulated products with little enforcement taken to rein that market in.
Tonya Perron, Ietsénhaienhs or elected chief of the Kahnawà:ke First Nation, told BNN Bloomberg in an interview that the agreement with Health Canada will soon allow the territory to start luring new producers and retailers to the area through a unique dual-licensing program.
"It was obvious that there needed to be a relationship with Health Canada to provide for the exchange of information between them and our Cannabis Control Board," Perron said. "Because the licencing applications would be happening almost in tandem, it didn't make sense to have any development in isolation without one not knowing what the other [agency] was doing."
A Health Canada spokesperson said that the MOU could serve as a template to establish other licensing protocols for First Nations interested in developing their own cannabis industry.
"Health Canada respects that the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke is putting processes in place and taking a collaborative approach to make sure that cannabis activities in the community are tightly controlled and regulated," the spokesperson said in an email. "This MOU helps to ensure the careful consideration of community processes during Health Canada’s cannabis licensing and oversight activities."
The Kahnawà:ke First Nation first drafted its cannabis regulations in Dec. 2018 and almost partnered with Canopy Growth Corp. to build a large production facility, plus a processing and packaging space in the territory, but plans later fell through. The territory, located south of Montreal along the St. Lawrence Seaway, also doesn't have any cannabis dispensaries, and all cannabis products that would be sold in Kahnawà:ke will come from licensed, not grey market, suppliers.
"My hope is that for those First Nations communities that want to develop something along those lines that we've paved the way for, these laws don't give up their jurisdiction, it doesn't talk about jurisdiction. It really talks about a coexistence and being on equal footing," Perron said.
B.C. producers form industry association to tackle province-specific concerns
A trio of British Columbia-based cannabis producers announced a new industry association aimed at ensuring the province's legal pot sector has a collective voice when dealing with or lobbying provincial policymakers.
Tantalus Labs, Rubicon Organics Inc., and Village Farms International Inc.'s Pure Sunfarms subsidiary formally launched the Cannabis Cultivators of B.C. (CCBA) on Thursday. The organization aims to address how B.C.'s cannabis producers should be placed on equal footing with other agricultural sectors as well as getting economic assistance from the province. It will also advocate for increased retail opportunities in the province as well as provide advice on how to tackle the illicit market.
"At the heart of it was making sure that we had a 'B.C. First' mandate across all provinces," said Mandesh Dosanjh, Pure Sunfarms chief executive officer, in a phone interview. "We want to focus on ensuring we're part of the agricultural community and how we can make B.C. bud thrive and how can we continue putting money into the things that make British Columbia and cannabis synonymous with one another."
The newly-launched organization will offer a fresh perspective on cannabis-industry matters and will be separate from the Cannabis Council of Canada, the national industry trade group that advocates for the sector in Ottawa and other provinces. Tantulus Labs CEO Dan Sutton told BNN Bloomberg that CCBA will give provincial members a "fresh start" to get their B.C.-specific voice heard, and hopes that it can foster new regulations that could allow municipalities to allow smaller, legal craft cannabis producers to operate.
"When large firms get together and develop industry associations, they can't equitably share the insights of firms of all sizes who might have different priorities," Sutton said.
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“We know the rules are where they are, maybe we should take another look at them."
- White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on whether Olympic policy on cannabis should be changed in light of U.S. runner Sha’Carri Richardson suspended for a positive marijuana test.