NIPISSING FIRST NATION—Chief and Council of Nipissing First Nation has declared a moratorium on cannabis. Chief and Council passed a motion on March 20 to prohibit business licenses for the sale and production of cannabis.
Nipissing First Nation Chief Scott McLeod says their leadership is being proactive. He points to many uncertainties surrounding legislation.
“We had a few inquiries. We are starting to see in other First Nations pot cheques showing up. The decision wasn’t based on a high demand happening here.”
With First Nations not under provincial legislation, Chief McLeod says a similar scenario as that of tobacco sales could be created.
“In learning from the tobacco experience, what we’ve done is closed the door to sales of marijuana until such a point that we’re comfortable that we have the right checks and balances in place.”
The Chief is worried about people getting hurt.
“There are drugs people are taking, not knowing where they are coming from that have been laced with other products that may cause harm. We don’t want to get in a situation like that. Chief and Council doesn’t want to be put in a position where we are condoning businesses that we don’t know what type of quality controls they have on their products.”
“And what about the health risks to young teenagers?” continued Chief McLeod. “We’re not fully aware, I don’t think at this point, of the extent of the risks and we need to educate ourselves.”
Chief McLeod says Nipissing First Nation has been put in an awkward position by the federal government.
“We have to try and get fully informed about the full effects of cannabis with very little time and very little resources.”
Dwayne Nashkawa is the Chief Executive Officer of Nipissing First Nation. Nashkawa sees increased challenges associated with cannabis legalization for Nipissing First Nation.
In his official statement on cannabis production and sales, Nashkawa expressed concern with: “Illegitimate business opportunities, taxation, the lack of First Nation specific licenses within medical production regulations, and the fact that there are already dispensaries operating on other reserves and communities, yet there is no enforcement and it is still unclear how provincial legislation will impact these activities.”
Nashkawa further writes that Ontario is not being clear about First Nation participation.
“We are also concerned that the retail model for Ontario does not appear to provide opportunities for First Nations to participate.”
Nipissing First Nation will now consult the Debendaagziwaad (NFN citizens) about the sale of cannabis in their territory. Nipissing First Nation has never allowed the sale of alcohol except for special occasion permits.
The administration will also focus on the legalities behind the new industry in how federal and provincial laws will work with Nipissing First Nation law.
Chief McLeod says Nipissing First Nation has quite a mess to sort out on licensing and enforcement.
“How do you control that? We are underfunded in our policing. We can’t have our police going around checking that sales are following a certain protocol…If they can’t enforce provincial law then we have to create those laws here because First Nations are on federal land reserved for the communities. By us placing a moratorium on the licensing of it, it is going to give us time to look at this. It’s not that we’re outright opposed. We’re concerned what the effects will be, both socially and economically.”
Chief McLeod does not have a time frame in mind for the moratorium to be lifted.
“I guess that depends how long it takes to get our own First Nation law and regulations in place. We have to look at how, in our decisions, how it relates to our Chi-Naaknigewin.”
The Chi-Naaknigewin is the constitution of Nipissing First Nation, law since 2014.