'Who Is Canada To Say We Can’t Have A Dispensary In Our Community?' First Nations Fight For Cannabis Control

Canada will finalize recreational marijuana legalization at some point this summer. Meanwhile, the country's many indigenous communities are preparing to fight for the right to set their own marijuana laws and regulations. One of the biggest battlegrounds will be illicit cannabis dispensaries.

As in other communities across Canada, illegal marijuana dispensaries have opened shop in indigenous communities. The federal government wants those businesses closed, but some First Nations leaders are willing to fight for them.

“Our people are going to say, ‘Listen, we have aboriginal treaty rights, we have economic rights as First Nations people. Who is Canada to say we can’t have a dispensary in our community?’” Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day said in a statement. 

Police in Canada do have the authority to shut down these operations if they see fit, but many dispensaries have been left alone. But as provinces like Ontario begin to make way for government-owned cannabis retailers, many more of these independent shops could see forced closure.

Regardless of what happens on the provincial level, once federal cannabis legislation is rolled out Indigenous communities want to be able to make their own decisions.

Day and other Indigenous leaders are expecting potential economic gains for communities near urban centers. Some have already begun applying for cultivation licenses. But other, more remote communities are less optimistic, believing they wouldn't have the resources to manage legal pot properly.

h/t Herb


Proponents of the War on Drugs often claim that it's about keeping communities safe. But US drug laws are based less on public health and more on social control, according to Diane Goldstein—Chair of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP). "I think what's critically important is that most Americans recognize that, inherently, our drug laws have never been about public health," Goldstein told Civilized.