By: Mike Anderson
The Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation (CGIFN) did not participate in Ontario’s recent cannabis lottery that awarded licenses to eight Ontario First Nations, says Chief Donna Big Canoe in an email to The Post.
Instead, the Band will consider opening a pot shop at its Island View Business Centre without provincial authorization, citing a recent resolution passed by the Chiefs of Ontario, which encourages First Nations to assert their jurisdiction over cannabis operations on reserve lands.
“CGFIN is currently considering entering into the Cannabis industry as an economic development venture to support and benefit its members,” reads a press release from the Chief and Band Council.
“Consistent with the June 14, 2019 Chiefs of Ontario resolution that would see Ontario’s 133 First Nations assert jurisdiction to govern all cannabis-related operations within their territories, and in keeping with the traditional practice of nation-to-nation trade and commerce, it is currently reviewing next-steps in consultation with its membership.”
The Chiefs of Ontario resolution, passed during the 45th Annual All Ontario Chiefs Conference, argues that because the federal government did not consult First Nations before the legalization of cannabis, they have the right to assert jurisdiction over their cannabis operations.
“First Nations must have their autonomy and authority recognized as rights holders at the table as governments when asserting their interests in the cannabis sector,” the resolution states.
On August 15, CGFIN took a significant step towards that goal by enacting a cannabis control by-law to regulate the “retail sales of cannabis and cannabis accessories, including authorization of retail cannabis operations” within its lands.
While CGFIN could decide to open a pot shop without provincial authorization, it would be breaking the law, according to Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG).
“Selling outside of Ontario’s authorized retail system is illegal under federal and provincial law,” says Brian Gray, a MAG spokesperson.
Under the Cannabis Control Act, individuals who sell or distribute illegal cannabis face fines up to $250,000 and up to two years in prison. The penalty for corporations is a maximum fine of $1 million.
However, enforcing those penalties is the responsibility of local police services, including First Nations police services, and those agencies operate independently from the Crown, according to Mr. Gray.