Article by , CBC News
Delbert Wapass will be paying close attention when two new Prairie Records cannabis shops open up in Saskatoon on April 20 — also known as 4/20.
The business advisor for Thunderchild First Nation was chief when the reserve became the biggest investor in Westleaf, the company opening both locations.
The $8 million investment, made more than a year ago, came with an announcement that Westleaf is building a 10,700-square-metre production facility on Thunderchild-owned land near North Battleford. If things go according to plan, weed that will end up in those shops could start growing on that land as early as December.
‘We wanted to get in where it counted’
Wapass, who is on the Westleaf board of directors, said he is not worried about whether the Prairie Records shops will succeed. There’s already a Prairie Records shop in Warman and five more planned in Alberta.
“We researched where the trends are, what should happen, where should we invest and we didn’t want to get in after the fact — we wanted to get in where it counted, in the beginning,” he said.
This is how his First Nation operates, he said. It makes savvy investment with groups like Westleaf, “who understand capital markets, who understand Bay Street.”
The benefits for Thunderchild include alleviating financial pressure on band members for education, health and housing. The production facility will also provide jobs, both during construction and once it’s built.
The facility is expected to employ 150 people once it’s up and running.
Getting the lay of the land
Thunderchild isn’t the only First Nation in the province with a stake in physical pot stores. Dozens of First Nations have investments in shops, either directly or via larger tribal councils.
Battleford Agency Tribal Chiefs is expected to co-open Nipawin’s first cannabis shop with a company called Green Tec Holdings later this year.