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49 First Nations investing in medical pot

From link to article by Emma Meldrum, Oct 13th 2017

Nearly 50 First Nations communities – including at least two in the Timmins area – are investing in medical marijuana.

Matachewan and Wahgoshig First Nations are among the shareholders in DelShen Therapeutics, which is a licensed medical marijuana producer.

Jacob Taylor and Jonathan Araujo of the Pontiac Group have been helping to connect Ontario First Nations groups with the medical marijuana company for the past two years.

“This plant is a medicine, and our focus with DelShen Therapeutics has always been a medical focus, where other companies have a recreational focus,” explained Araujo.

“This is the medicine and the focus that we’re bringing as First Nations peoples. We believe that all plants have usage and we understood for many years that this plant is a medicine, and we want to make sure that First Nations, Indigenous world views are brought to this industry, that this industry doesn’t turn into a tobacco industry where it’s all about profits and commercialization. We want to focus on creating significant change in our health industry,” he said.

The business of medical marijuana is personal for Araujo, whose mother-in-law has been using cannabis oil to fight an aggressive form of brain cancer.

Taylor said First Nations are signing on because of the work of Pontiac Group.

“We’ve taken it on the road to other communities, marketing it as an excellent opportunity for First Nations,” Taylor said.

“We have been promoting the message that we learned from our elders, that every plant has a healing purpose, so slowly that message has been more and more accepted.”

The duo aren’t interested in soon-to-be-legal recreational marijuana.

“We want to shape the message, keep people remembering that this is something that helps people improve their quality of life, not necessarily in a recreational market, where it is, you could argue, escapism from everyday life. This is improving people’s everyday, regular quality of life.”

The agreements signed between DelShen and the 49 First Nations groups also have direct positives for the First Nations thanks to community benefit agreements.

Araujo said he thinks these agreements are the first of their kind.

“Most companies who deal with First Nations communities and especially in the resource sector, will have an impact benefit agreement because they’re extracting natural resources from traditional territories,” he explained.

“In our business, DelShen Therapeutics is not extracting any resources, however, they created the first of its kind, a community benefit agreement, which has higher priorities for First Nation employment, it allows for moneys to be put into communities for addiction and substance abuse programs, as we are really underfunded for those types of programs.”

The Daily Press reached out to Wahgoshig First Nation’s executive director, Mylon Ollila, who declined to comment. Matachewan First Nation is a partner with Wahgoshig in a cannabis investment company, Mashkiki Investment LP. That company’s president, Ann Batisse, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

DelShen’s president, Dr. Barry Kurtzer, told The Daily Press in March that there’s potential for the company to expand into recreational marijuana, depending on regulations imposed by the government when it’s legalized next year.

“We have copious room for development if it seems that it’s favourable for us to entertain going into the recreational market,” said Kurtzer.  

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