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Let Indigenous Communities Run Their Own Cannabis Tax Regimes, Says Former Indian Affairs Director General

Some Indigenous leaders in Canada have called for the incoming legalization of cannabis to be delayed until they have been properly consulted on the matter. But there may be a way to prevent pushing back legalization while giving Indigenous communities more control over cannabis legislation: allowing them to establish their own taxation regimes.

Establishing a means of sharing cannabis tax revenues has been one of the major concerns of the Senate Committee on Aboriginal People. Last month they called for a delay of cannabis legalization in order to have time to get this sorted out. But Allen Clarke - who was formerly director general of Indian Affairs and Northern Development - says there is a way to ensure Indigenous communities get their share of cannabis taxes without delaying legalization.

Clarke argues that the First Nations Fiscal Management Act Already allows Indigenous governments to have control over taxation in their communities and could be adapted to the specific requirements of cannabis taxes.

"The First Nations Fiscal Management Act could be amended to recognize First Nations’ law-making authority to levy taxes on the sale and distribution of cannabis, subject to the administrative framework of the Act and consistent with elements of the provisions currently being contemplated for the Excise Tax Act," Clarke wrote in an article for Policy Options.

Clarke agrees that the Canadian government has not done enough to include Indigenous people in the conversation of cannabis legalization and allowing them control over how the substance will be managed in their communities will be an important step forward.

"My point in the article is that, if you're aspiring to a nation-to-nation relationship, and you don't recognize that First Nations should have jurisdiction over matters that affect their communities and their people, you will never achieve a nation-to-nation relationship," he told The Leaf News.

For Clarke, this is less an issue about how to move forward on cannabis legalization and more about improving the often uncertain state of Indigenous-Crown relations.

"They missed it. I can't believe that this was a deliberate decision of the government, to say 'We want to exclude First Nations from this regime.' I just think that it speaks to the difficulty of mobilizing a large government over a bunch of complex issues."


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