Long Plain First Nation is set to face off Manitoba’s Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority in court over a dispute regarding the sale of cannabis from an unlicensed dispensary on the Keeshkemaquah Urban Reserve, near Portage la Prairie.
The province filed a lawsuit late last week seeking an interim and permanent injunction to force the shutdown of cannabis dispensary Indigenous Bloom, described on the company website as a “co-operative of First Nation and Indigenous Peoples that consolidates long-term partnerships with First Nation and Indigenous Peoples on Indigenous lands for the production and dispensing of medicinal hemp and cannabis products.”
The LGCA suspended the business’ cannabis retail agreement in May. It was terminated fully a month later.
Manitoba Justice said in a statement released on Friday that it aims to “apply one set of rules to everyone.”
“The attorney general takes this step in the public interest…To protect public health and safety, to protect the integrity of the established legal framework for cannabis sales in Manitoba, and to protect the interests of all Manitoba cannabis retailers, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, that participate in the legal system and ensure consistent access to controlled and authorized cannabis products from licensed producers,” reads the statement.
But Long Plain First Nation Chief Dennis Meeches says that the province’s interference isn’t just a scuffle about provincial pot regs, but meddles with the Nation’s sovereignty, referring to the attorney general’s actions as “a big smokescreen.”
“It’s a very, very important issue for us,” Meeches told CBC News. “It’s a matter of defending our sovereignty and our relationship with the Crown. In light of all that though, the province is taking a hard-line approach. We’ve always maintained we are a sovereign nation within a sovereign state.”
In response to the province’s action in May, the Long Plain First Nation adopted the Long Plain First Nation Cannabis Law, “an expression of the Long Plain First Nation’s inherent right to self-determination, which includes the right to exclusively govern cannabis-related activities on-reserve,” according to a news release from Long Plain First Nation leadership.
Long Plain says it meets or exceeds current federal and provincial health and safety standards and “are willing and prepared to work with Canada on a Nation-to-Nation basis to ensure that our respective legal systems can co-exist and operate harmoniously.”