Article by Rob Hoffman, Herb
As Canada prepares to roll out its legal marijuana legislation this summer, Indigenous communities are expressing concern over whether they will be allowed to decide if and how they participate.
Much like the major metropolitan areas of Canada, illegal marijuana dispensaries have already been established in Indigenous communities. While police technically have the authority to close down these stores, doing so en masse would ignite a contentious national debate about the police’s ability to interfere with these communities’ autonomy.
In some cases, law enforcement officers have already come into Indigenous communities to shut down dispensaries. This past January, police raided a dispensary on the Six Nations of the Grand River territory, a Haudenosaunee community near the southern Ontario city of Hamilton. Five people were charged, and their profits and products seized.
In other Indigenous communities, however, like the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte First Nation, more than a dozen dispensaries have been operating undisturbed, according to the London Free Press.
Another dispensary called The Red Eagle, on the land of the Oneida Nation of the Thames, home to roughly 2,100 people, has also been operating undisturbed. Just down the road, the Wild Bear dispensary similarly offers marijuana and related products to customers on Chippewas of the Thames First Nation land.
Both of these Indigenous communities are located just a short drive southwest of London, Ontario, a university town buzzing with students looking for easier and safer access to marijuana than their local street dealer. Currently, there are roughly four remaining retail marijuana shops in London. Like the rest of Ontario, the city has undergone a series of raids by police, who are trying to eradicate independently owned stores to make way for government-run marijuana dispensaries. These government-run stores are slated to open after Canada officially legalizes recreational marijuana in August or September.