One Indigenous reserve bans Ontario Cannabis Store deliveries, others consider it

Twitter icon

A northern Ontario Indigenous community has become the first to ban the province’s monopoly pot delivery service from its territory, a move that at least one Southwestern Ontario First Nation – maybe more – is looking to follow.

In Southwestern Ontario, where illegal marijuana stores have proliferated in the past year, Indigenous leaders have voiced concerns about the fallout from legalized marijuana, but none has completed the required steps under Ontario’s new marijuana law to ban the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) from delivering to their communities.

Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, a community 580 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, became the first to do so last week, according to the OCS.

One day before Canada legalized recreational cannabis on Oct. 17, Chippewas of the Thames First Nation Chief Myeengun Henry vowed to ban OCS deliveries, citing a disagreement with the province over jurisdiction.

“We want an agreement with Ontario that results in the the province stepping away from assertions of jurisdiction on our territory. It is our place and our responsibility to regulate how business, including cannabis, is carried out on this reserve, and not the province,” Henry said at the time.

But the band council of the First Nation, located southwest of London, still hasn’t passed an official resolution more than two month later.

The law requires band councils to first approve a resolution opting out of OCS deliveries and to provide a copy of it to the provincial pot retailer.

“Our official (band council resolution) and posting with the Ontario agency for cannabis has taken a bit longer due to our unique geographic situation,” Chippewas spokesperson Rolanda Elijah wrote in an email Thursday. “Our reserve has another reserve within our boundaries. We actually own the roads servicing the other First Nation, which is Munsee Delaware.”

Band officials will hold a special meeting in January on the issue, Elijah said.

Adults in Ontario can legally buy recreational marijuana only though the OCS until bricks-and-mortar stores open on April 1, when a maximum of 25 will be allowed to open across the province.

Jessica Hill, chief of the neighbouring Oneida of the Thames First Nation, isn’t ruling out banning OCS deliveries, but says her community is still devising its cannabis strategy.

“We haven’t decided yet what we’re going to be implementing,” said Hill, whose community southwest of London has about 2,100 residents.

“We have a lot of work to do in our community because the government has sort of left us out in no man’s land, as far this is concerned,” she said, noting that Oneida isn’t getting a cut of cannabis sales revenue like Ontario’s municipalities.

Critics warn banning OCS deliveries will only embolden black market dispensaries. More of the illegal stores have popped up in recent months on Indigenous territories, where police have largely turned a blind eye to the businesses while cracking down on illegal pot shops in cities across the country.

At least four of the illegal retailers operate on Oneida, including one that’s been linked to a former chief, drawing a steady stream of customers from London and the surrounding region.

Opinion on the unsanctioned pot shops is divided, Hill said.

“A lot of people see it as (a) business opportunity, an economic opportunity. A lot of people see it as a way that illegal drugs will creep into our communities,” she said.

e-mail icon Facebook icon Twitter icon LinkedIn icon Reddit icon
Rate this article: 
Regional Marijuana News: