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First Nations shut out from economic opportunities of the Cannabis Act

‘For the last 150 years, First Nations have been excluded from economic opportunities on their lands,’ says Senate report.

From APTN by Kierstin Williams June 15 2023

The Senate standing committee on Indigenous Peoples says that First Nations’ calls for jurisdiction have been ignored by the federal government and they have not shared in the economic opportunities from the legalization of cannabis.

The 38-page interim report, titled On the Outside Looking In, says that many of the problems identified by First Nations prior to legalization have not been addressed, including the federal government’s exclusive power on regulating matters related to First Nations and their lands. 

The parliamentarians are calling on the federal minister of health to amend the Cannabis Act to authorize First Nations to govern the possession, sale, and distribution of cannabis on their lands.

“Once again, Indigenous Peoples have been excluded from the economic prosperity of the country, and once again, little regard has been given to how our lives have been impacted,” says Sen. Brian Francis, chair of the committee and Mi’kmaw from Lennox Island First Nation.

The Cannabis Act, adopted by the federal government in 2018, let the provinces and territories determine the sale and distribution of cannabis for First Nations without any mechanisms in the Act allowing First Nation governments to regulate cannabis on their lands.

“The federal government consultations with First Nations before and after legalization were inadequate at best, this created an obstacle for First Nations seeking to reap the economic benefits of legalization,” Sen. Francis told reporters at a news conference in Ottawa on Thursday.

The committee began their study on the impacts of the Cannabis Act on Indigenous peoples in 2022, four years after the legalization of cannabis. The members heard testimony from 29 witnesses and provided 13 recommendations in the interim report.

The report recommends research into the impacts of cannabis legislation on Indigenous People’s health and asks the expert panel reviewing cannabis law to engage with Indigenous communities and people.

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