Canada’s First Nations Lobbying to be Included as Equal Partners in Recreational Market

Article by Cecilia Keating, Lift News

Canada’s First Nations lobbying to be included as equal partners in recreational market A newly-formed organization is working to ensure that indigenous communities across Canada can benefit from the legalization of pot next year

The National Indigenous Medical Cannabis Association (NIMCA) advocates for indigenous rights in relation to medical and recreational cannabis. The association’s mandate is broad, from putting pressure on the government to adjust the proposed Cannabis Act, to providing a forum for indigenous producers and retailers and encouraging indigenous self-regulation and determination on the issue.

According to Clifton Nicholas, NIMCA’s Quebec representative, the aim is “to be included as equal partners” in the roll-out to July 2018.  “It is our sovereign right to use cannabis and to make it an economy,” he explained, “without any interference from the government.”

Nicholas was elected to NIMCA’s board in late March when the organization met in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in southern Ontario to choose representatives from all 10 provinces. The association was spearheaded by Tim Barnhart, the owner of Legacy 420, a medical cannabis dispensary operating on the territory.

Tyendinaga is a beacon of hope to the indigenous cannabis industry; Legacy 420 is one of eight medical marijuana dispensaries in operation there.

While there has been talk of dispensaries opening on Kanesatake Mohawk Territory near Montreal, and in Innu and Algonquin territories, Quebec is still a long way off this point, according to Nicholas. Quebec is notoriously a “hard nut to crack,” and Mohawk territories have a fractured history with law enforcement when it comes to cannabis, stretching beyond the 1990 Oka crisis. “We are vulnerable, we are targeted often, if we open [a dispensary] in their face it’s going to be shut down the next day,” Nicholas said.

More political will, he said, is needed to reverse these attitudes in the province, NIMCA will have to “create more education and work a little harder to get Quebec on board with what the rest of the country is doing.”

Nicholas’ first step in Quebec is to ensure that the board is both multilingual and has gender parity, alongside ensuring that all indigenous communities across Quebec are represented, including the Inuit, “a group that gets excluded often,” he said.

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