Article by Harold Carmichael The Sudbury Star
The arrest this week of Derek Roque – co-owner of the Creator’s Choice cannabis dispensary on the Wahnapitae First Nation – should never have happened, says a band council member.
“We don’t need (an Ontario) licence to do this,” councillor Ted Roque told reporters at a protest outside the Sudbury Courthouse on Thursday, referring to the sale of cannabis. “It is the Indigenous right to be economically self-sustaining … We don’t need to get permission from the province of Ontario to do this.”
More than 20 people participated in the protest with signs bearing messages such as Free Derek Roque, I Love Indigenous Cannabis, APS Out of Wahnapitae and Stop Raids.
Roque, who was on bail when he was arrested Wednesday, was scheduled to appear in bail court Thursday.
Ted Roque said Derek did nothing wrong since the Wahnapitae First Nation approved his cannabis dispensary.
“We held a referendum with on and off-reserve members being consulted,” he said. “We had a yes vote to move forward. We developed laws concerning it.
“It was wrong what (police) did,” said Ted Roque. “(Derek) should be released and products given back to the two dispensaries.”
Ted Roque said the band council put laws in place governing the operation of marijuana dispensaries to safeguard the community.
“We don’t want organized crime in our community,” he said. “We want to do things right: the same economic opportunity as everybody else … We all have the same concerns (with marijuana). It has to be done right. (And) we don’t need to be paying the province of Ontario (for licences). It’s (band revenue), not a lot, but it helps. It goes into programs.”
Ted added the same problems occurred in the past with police when First Nation communities began selling cigarettes.
“Today, (First Nation businesses selling cigarettes) have quotas,” he said. “There should not be quotas with something like cigarettes. That is ridiculous.”
In early January, six people were charged following two separate drug raids on the First Nation community located on the north shore of Lake Wanapitei.
Ontario Provincial Police officers, along with officers from the Anishinabek Police Service, executed a search warrant at First Nations Medicinal, located on Loonway Road.
As a result of the investigation, two people were charged with possessing cannabis for the purpose of selling. Items seized included suspected cannabis bud, oil, shatter (cannabis concentrate), hash and edibles. The street value of the seized products is approximately $47,430. Police also seized approximately $2,700 in Canadian currency.
On its Facebook page, First Nations Medicinal officials said they remained undaunted.
“Despite (Wednesday’s) raid, we’re back in action,” they wrote. “We will not slow! We will not fail! Not an option at this point!”