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Canada's Cannabis Industry (Largely) Fails to Include First Nations Communities

Canada's Cannabis Industry (Largely) Fails to Include First Nations Communities

Canada’s multibillion dollar cannabis industry is not perfect. We can acknowledge that there were some oversights, and omissions when legalization rolled-out. There were mistakes, there were faulty assumptions, and we see headlines every week that touch on this.

Beyond the Excise Taxes and edible limits is a far more widespread problem with the industry – the lack of Indigenous brands and opportunities for Indigenous communities. In a recent Senate hearing held by the Committee on Indigenous Peoples, many First Nation leaders spoke about the “systemic exclusion” (Darcy Gray, Chief of Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation) of their peoples from capitalizing on the economic opportunities afforded to the licensed cannabis market.

Health Canada notes that roughly 290 ‘engagement sessions’ have been held for discussions on legalizations and regulation. At present, only 6 of more than 600 production licenses registered with CRA and Health Canada have been issued to First Nations communities. There are 40+ additional commercial production licenses issued to indigenous-affiliated or owned businesses.

Many leaders are voicing their concerns regarding the barriers to inclusion within the Cannabis Act. These barriers are particularly stringent with regards to Provincial approvals. Quebec has yet to approve a licensed facility within an Indigenous community.

Indigenous communities exist on Sovereign land, meaning these communities can establish their own laws and govern economic development within their borders. Sadly, systemic barriers exist that even prevent First Nations communities from doing business with each other. First Nations communities are seeking opportunities to operate legally, not just within the borders of their sovereign land, but free from the framework established by provincial and federal systems that govern priorities.

The government’s focus has been on eliminating the illicit market, but appear hesitant to embrace the cultural significance and legality of Indigenous produced cannabis, let alone authorizing and licensing these producers. Given that much of the illicit cannabis market is purportedly being produced and sold within First Nations communities, one would think that the government would be more forthcoming and enthusiastic about licensing Indigenous Brands; legacy growers with decades of knowledge. Is it possible to amend the Cannabis Act to include special provisions for the establishment of Indigenous involvement within the industry.

Ultimately, the Legislative Review of the Cannabis Act will show how committed the Federal Government is with regards to inclusion, fairness, and supporting this floundering industry.

For the original article published in MJBizDaily, visit:
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