Six Nations is drafting its very own cannabis law

At the current time, no revenue-sharing agreement exists between Indigenous communities and Ottawa


Pictured: Members of the Kahnawake Tribe attend a yearly powwow

The most populous First Nations reserve in Canada is drafting its own cannabis law. Cannabis in the Six Nations could be regulated quite differently than it will be in provinces that patiently wait for regulations to be imposed by outside governments.

So, why does Six Nations want to draft its own cannabis law?

“Our main concern is the health and safety of our community, particularly the young people,” said elected Chief Ava Hill.

Cannabis legalization presents a plethora of potential economic benefits, too. This is something that Hill has considered in regards to regulating cannabis in Six Nations.

“We have to start developing our own source of revenue,” Hill explained. “If this is one avenue to do that, that’s one avenue we want to explore.”

However, according to Indigenous leaders, including Hill, Six Nations has not been included in the Great White North’s national legalization discussions. Tribes and indigenous communities have felt somewhat left out of Canada’s cannabis legalization. As a result, Six Nations has pushed forward with its own plans to regulate pot.

“It seems that again we’ve been left out in the dark with all the stuff that’s going on, and we’ve become a footnote,” said Hill.

Cannabis Act permits provinces to enact particular cannabis regulations

When Parliament passed Bill C-45 (the Cannabis Act) back in June, provincial governments started preparing province-specific regulations for the sale and distribution of cannabis.

Annual cannabis tax revenue is predicted to hit $400 million in the early stages of Canada’s cannabis legalization. The cannabis tax revenue will be banked at 25 percent by Ottawa, with the remaining 75 percent to be distributed amongst the rest of Canada’s provinces and territories.

Bill C-45 will officially be enacted on October 17, so the race is well and truly on for First Nations communities. In fact, Indigenous communities are feeling the pressure so much that they have actually urged Ottawa to slow things down.

At the current time, no revenue-sharing agreement exists between Indigenous communities and Ottawa. Moreover, there has been no clarification on cannabis self-regulation or taxation.

Cannabis in the Six Nations: Indigenous community leaders want respect and recognition

The topic of cannabis production, sale and distribution is one that has been brought up in debate by the leaders of Indigenous communities. According to the Constitution, the production, sale, and distribution of legal weed are three components of self-determination, which is a First Nations entitlement.

The federal and provincial governments must recognize and respect First Nations sovereignty and jurisdiction over their reserves and traditional territories,” read a June resolution at the Assembly of First Nations.

Senator attention was drawn to the subject of cannabis in the Six Nations when in June, the Chiefs of Ontario wrote a memorandum about how Ottawa “failed to involve First Nations.”

According to the chiefs, legal cannabis in Canada “must respect” First Nations indigenous jurisdictions. The letter came following a vow from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government to establish a “renewed, nation-to-nation relationship” with First Nations communities.

Hopefully, the Department of Finance will stick to its word, after announcing it is “committed to ensuring” tax arrangements are “consistent with the principles underlying reconciliation and a renewed fiscal relationship.”

A progress report on “action areas” has been promised to a Senate standing committee by the ministers of health and indigenous services  The report is expected to be finalized in June of next year.

Indigenous governments are tailoring cannabis regulations to their needs

Despite the prospective progress of regulating cannabis in Six Nations, many Indigenous governments have had enough of standing around in the shadows and waiting to be involved in Canada’s legal cannabis market.

So much so, that Indigenous communities across the Great White North are taking matters into their own hands. Kahnawake is one such example. The Six Nations tribal community is currently debating minimum age requirements for cannabis sale and consumption. Kahnawake plans to set the minimum age three years above Quebec’s minimum age requirement, which has been set at 18 years.

I believe we have many issues to deal with and this will add to social impacts,” said Chief of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation (MNCFN), Stacey Laforme.

I realize that it can provide economic opportunity, but I am concerned that social issues will outweigh economic activity,” Laforme revealed in an email to The Spectator.

Only time will tell what the outcome of cannabis in Six Nations will be. The Chief of the Six Nations elected council, Ava Hill, says that Indigenous communities need to start developing their own source of revenue.

With that being said, it is likely we will see tribal nations pushing ahead with their own weed laws, rather than waiting for outside governments to establish legal cannabis regulations.