Ottawa in discussion to create cannabis rules for First Nations territories

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Ottawa in discussion to create cannabis rules for First Nations territories

26th August 2019

Talks have been ongoing by the federal government’s lead minister with leaders from First Nations regarding cannabis on how to create laws on the marijuana industry on their territories. 

Initially, Ottawa’s revenue sharing and cannabis regulatory act did not include First Nations. The cannabis act developed by Ottawa gives territorial and provincial governments retail end and distribution control while Health Canada oversees the commercial product licensing. Ottawa’s excise tax revenue split stands at 25% to 75% with territorial and provincial governments. Opaskwayak Cree Nation Chief Christian Sinclair said that the move Ottawa took only left them behind and excluded. Sinclair, who is the first Nation huge National Access Cannabis investor, bet early on the marijuana industry. 

 Bill Blair, who is the Organized Crime Reduction Minister, has met severally with First Nations leaders. The meetings are generally to explore on a cannabis plan possibility which eventually compounds to a legislative means to push the notion. 

The CEO of Bimaadzwin, Isadore Day, said that it would mirror the territorial, provincial, and federal rules controlling the marijuana industry. Day further said that the First Nations framework is to own a parallel track. First Nation will control the regulatory regime from revenue sharing, traceability, licensing to testing, said Day, who is Ontario’s former regional chief. Blair’s office confirmed that there would be a continuous engagement between the federal government and the indigenous communities concerning the cannabis nation to nation issue. 

According to the statement, Ottawa is ready to proceed on the issue “bilaterally, if need be” if some territories and provinces are skeptical about participating. First nation leaders have been informed by Blair that the office of the Prime minister is working on the file. The PM further said that he knows how complicated this situation is, but that does not hinder his office from solving the situation. Day also said that even if legislation is passed, it would be applicable this October after the federal election. 

Nonetheless, he stated that a written commitment would be a good idea before the legislation drops. Discussions are also underway with senior Health officials Canada, Day said, The First Nations Assembly passed three cannabis resolutions in July at the annual general assembly. One of the resolutions prompted Ottawa to recognize all cannabis retail, cultivation, and process in their territories. A working framework Canada is also part of the resolution. Despite the current talks not being led by the AFN, Perry Bellegrads, who is the AFN National Chief of staff Is part of some discussions. 

Many First Nations, like Alderville, Pikwakanagan and Tyendinaga in Ontario, and Quebec’s Kanesatake already have booming cannabis retail shops working outside of federal and provincial rules. The First Nations chief tax commissioner Manny Jules said that the current stalemate had positioned most First Nations governments in a difficult spot when it comes to dealing with what is happening now is uncalled for, and he wants to be part of the economy which can only happen under the legislation. 

Sinclair further said that the benefits of the cannabis industry should be enjoyed by all First Nations. This can only be achieved if there is a working jurisdiction in place, he further added. The framework would make it possible for cannabis revenues to remain within First Nations. He further said that the First Nations are hugely involved with the supply chain and is the engine for the cannabis industry. 

Sinclair also touched on revenue sharing framework through the First Nations Fiscal Management Act (FNFMA), stating that it could present the financial and administrative backbone to the regulatory regime. The FNFMA contributed to the creation of finance authority, financial management board, and the Tax Commission. All these three First Nations institutions are in support of First Nations problems like raising finances or capital, taxation issues, and solving fiscal issues. 

Jules said that First Nations should retain between 75% to 100% of all revenues which would go to provincial or Ottawa coffers in the form of commodity taxes or excise from cannabis sale on First Nations. The cannabis revenues can then be used to bring some equality. He further added that this suggestion on excise tax could help First Nations communities directly. 

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