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Tsuut’ina Nation in talks for potential cannabis deal, chief says

From StarMetro Calgary link to article by Evan Radford, July 26th 2018

CALGARY—On the heels of a Saskatchewan First Nation striking an $8-million deal with a Calgary-based cannabis company, Tsuut’ina Nation Chief Lee Crowchild confirmed on Wednesday that he and his council are in negotiations for a deal of their own.

Crowchild was mum on the details of which company or companies Tsuut’ina is in negotiations with, except to say “we are working on things” and there may be an announcement about such a deal coming in the next three months, by October or possibly earlier.

Saskatchewan’s Thunderchild First Nation recently made an $8-million investment in Calgary’s Westleaf Cannabis Inc., securing its spot as the company’s largest shareholder.

The First Nation sits about halfway between Lloydminster and Battleford, Sask. The investment guarantees a 115,000-square-foot production facility on land owned by Thunderchild, but located in Battleford, on the west side of Saskatchewan.

Crowchild added that he and the Tsuut’ina council sought feedback from its approximately 2,050 members via a referendum on the topic of cannabislegalization.

“It was three questions we asked … One was about the growing of (cannabis), and then manufacturing of the product, and then the retail side of it,” he said.

The chief didn’t have specific numbers on hand, but he said 74 to 76 per cent supported all three components of the referendum.

He also touted a cannabis conference that Tsuut’ina will host at its Grey Eagle Resort and Casino in October.

Crowchild described it as a networking and education event during which representatives from government, the health sector, police agencies and the financial sector “can bring their thoughts and ideas to the table.”

Westleaf CEO and co-founder Scott Hurd said he expects the Thunderchild production facility to be up and running by about July or August next year.

Hurd clarified the land, though owned by Thunderchild, sits within the municipality of Battleford, a town about 100 kilometres southeast of the First Nation.

“At full scale, this project will employ upwards of 150 people, and we’re in the process of instituting a quality training program” for potential employees, the CEO said.

Hurd said the intent with the project is to create jobs for Thunderchild members and other First Nations in Canada.

The investment also means Thunderchild Chief Delbert Wapass gets a seat on the company’s board of directors.

Wapass was unavailable for comment by press time.

Hurd added that talk of the investment was instigated by a Calgary-based man named Steve Mason; he’s an executive chairman and co-founder of Westleaf, who has had a decade-long relationship with Thunderchild.

Founded 12 months ago, Westleaf also has a production and lab facility in Calgary, Hurd said.

“Our product offering will include both processed products, such as flower and pre-rolls, as well as derivative products.

“Clients will be able to consume or ingest cannabis purchased from Westleaf through its gel capsules, tinctures, medicated sprays and topicals, as well as concentrates and edibles once legalized and approved by Health Canada,” an emailed statement from the company said.

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