With the federal government on the verge of creating a multi-billion dollar legal marijuana industry, Brian Marquis worries aboriginal people will be left high and dry.
Marquis, 57, is a patient at the Legacy 420 dispensary on the Tyendinaga Mohawk territory near Kingston, Ont. And after nearly three years of frequenting the business, he says he has seen the financial potential and medical benefits of cannabis.
Now he wants to see storefront dispensaries sprout up in reserves across Canada: providing an economic engine that will help lift indigenous people out of poverty and, he says, provide an antidote to Canada’s opioid addiction crisis.
One of Marquis’s Quebec associates told the Montreal Gazette there is interest in opening dispensaries in the Kanesatake Mohawk territory as well as on Algonquin and Innu reserves.
This may seem like a pipe dream, but Marquis recently took steps to make this a reality. On Monday, Marquis signed legal papers incorporating the National Indigenous Medical Cannabis Association — a group aimed at regulating the sale of medical marijuana within Canada’s indigenous territories.
The organization met in Tyendinaga last week to elect representatives from 10 provinces, establish bylaws and schedule its next board election in 2022.
“We’re not waiting for the federal government on this, we’re going to do what we have to do,” said Marquis, who was elected president of NIMCA’s Ontario chapter. “Canada can do its own thing, we’re a sovereign people on sovereign land. They’re not going to stop us.”