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.