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Sask. legislation would boost First Nations’ authority over cannabis sales, bylaw enforcement

Legislature will move to 2nd reading on Wednesday

From CBC by Danielle Ponticelli December 7 2022

The Saskatchewan government has introduced two amendment acts that, if approved, would provide First Nations increased autonomy on the sale of cannabis and bylaw enforcement.

The Cannabis Control (Saskatchewan) Amendment Act, 2022 would provide a provincial legal framework for First Nations to license and regulate the distribution and sale of cannabis within their communities.

Lori Carr, the minister responsible for the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA), says this is an extension of the changes enacted in the summer. 

“We’re just taking those regulations and putting them into legislation, and it is something the First Nations were asking for,” Carr said at the Saskatchewan legislative building Tuesday. 

An order in council signed on July 28 stated First Nations would no longer have to secure a permit from the SLGA — the government body in charge of regulating liquor and cannabis industries — in order to operate on-reserve cannabis stores.

Numerous First Nations had already moved ahead on those opportunities without the province’s blessing.

As many as eight cannabis stores on First Nations land have been operating without a provincial licence in the last year, according to media reports. 

In a news release Tuesday, the government said the proposed amendment provides First Nations the chance to create their “own regulatory framework consistent with federal and provincial legislation to establish a local cannabis authority.”

Once established, stores regulated by First Nations will have access to federally regulated cannabis products.

Customers wait outside Buds and Blossoms Cannabis Company in Pheasant Rump Nakota Nation on July 1, 2019. Under the proposed amendment, retailers would not have to require all their customers provide proof of age. (Submitted by Ira McArthur)

“One of the biggest benefits that they’ll have is they’ll be able to access the product from the Canadian government, so they’ll be be able to ensure the product they’re getting is safe for their consumers,” Carr said. 

These amendments will also require all Saskatchewan cannabis retailers to only ask for proof of age when a purchaser appears to be under the age of 25. 

Currently, retailers are required to ask for proof of age from all purchasers.

Opening up cannabis enforcement

The Summary Offences Procedure Amendment Act, 2022 was also introduced Tuesday. 

According to the government, the legislation provides a legal framework First Nations can use to enforce laws and bylaws within their communities through tickets, fines and other measures.

“These amendments will allow First Nations to use the summary offence procedure to issue tickets and fines, similar to how tickets and fines are issued for traffic violations and other provincial offences,” Justice Minister Bronwyn Eyre said in a news release Tuesday. 

“Our province is proud to take this important step as part of our ongoing work on bylaw enforcement with the Muskoday and Whitecap Dakota First Nations.”

First Nations maintain the choice to opt in to the summary offence procedure provisions under the act.

According to the government, the proposed amendments would make administrative updates to provisions respecting applications to strike a conviction as well as late charges for fines that are in default.

A second reading for the legislation is scheduled for Wednesday.

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