By: Mike Anderson
Georgina is about to get its first pot shop, but it won’t be located in the municipality. Instead, it will be on reserve lands.
The Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation will open a cannabis store – although the exact date has not been set, according to Chief Donna Big Canoe.
The store will be located at the Island View Business Centre, next to Tobacco Trails.
However, it’s not clear if the Band will participate in a “lottery” to obtain a license from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), the agency responsible for approving cannabis stores.
“This has yet to be determined,” said Scott Jacobs, the business centre’s general manager. “We are still considering this option and whether it is best for the First Nation.”
In July, the province announced that it would issue up to eight licenses to First Nations to operate cannabis stores on reserve lands.
The AGCO will accept applications on July 31, starting at 9 a.m. The “lottery” winners will be selected on a “first come, first served” basis, with the final rankings made public.
While this is the first time that First Nations have been included in this process, several Indigenous leaders have voiced their objections.
“This is divisive. In no way, shape or form does it promote our First Nations working together,” said Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day in a recent interview with Yahoo Finance.
“It’s saying, ‘Here are eight licenses. There are 133 First Nations in Ontario. You fight over it.’ It’s a degrading and deplorable tactic that we have seen time and time again. The provincial government will realize very quickly that we’re not going to take the bait.”
Will the Chippewas take the “bait,” or open without an official AGCO authorization? We’ll have to wait until the July 31st deadline passes to find out.
If the Chippewas decide to open a store without a license, they would be breaking the law, according to Brian Gray, a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Attorney General.
“We understand that some First Nation communities may wish to develop their own specific approaches to cannabis, including a specific approach to retail,” said Mr. Gray.
“However, selling outside of Ontario’s authorized retail system is illegal under federal and provincial law.”
In January, the Town of Georgina opted out of allowing retail cannabis stores in the municipality. In a recorded vote, Town councillors voted 4-3 in favour of opting out – despite a Town survey that indicated a majority of respondents were in favour of allowing cannabis outlets in Georgina.
This means that the Chippewas, if granted a license, would operate the only legal cannabis outlet in Georgina.
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