Pubdate: Mon, 16 Oct 2017
Source: Daily Press, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Sun Media
Author: Emma Meldrum
Page: A3


Nearly 50 First Nations communities - including at least two in the
Timmins area - are investing in medical marijuana.

Matachewan and Wahgoshig First Nations are among the shareholders in
DelShen Therapeutics, which is a licensed medical marijuana producer.

Jacob Taylor and Jonathan Araujo of the Pontiac Group have been
helping to connect Ontario First Nations groups with the medical
marijuana company for the past two years.

"This plant is a medicine, and our focus with DelShen Therapeutics has
always been a medical focus, where other companies have a recreational
focus," explained Araujo.

"This is the medicine and the focus that we're bringing as First
Nations peoples. We believe that all plants have usage and we
understood for many years that this plant is a medicine, and we want
to make sure that First Nations, Indigenous world views are brought to
this industry, that this industry doesn't turn into a tobacco industry
where it's all about profits and commercialization. We want to focus
on creating significant change in our health industry," he said.

The business of medical marijuana is personal for Araujo, whose
mother-in-law has been using cannabis oil to fight an aggressive form
of brain cancer.

Taylor said First Nations are signing on because of the work of
Pontiac Group.

"We've taken it on the road to other communities, marketing it as an
excellent opportunity for First Nations," Taylor said.

"We have been promoting the message that we learned from our elders,
that every plant has a healing purpose, so slowly that message has
been more and more accepted."

The duo aren't interested in soon-to-be-legal recreational

"We want to shape the message, keep people remembering that this is
something that helps people improve their quality of life, not
necessarily in a recreational market, where it is, you could argue,
escapism from everyday life. This is improving people's everyday,
regular quality of life."

The agreements signed between DelShen and the 49 First Nations groups
also have direct positives for the First Nations thanks to community
benefit agreements.

Araujo said he thinks these agreements are the first of their

"Most companies who deal with First Nations communities and especially
in the resource sector, will have an impact benefit agreement because
they're extracting natural resources from traditional territories," he

"In our business, DelShen Therapeutics is not extracting any
resources, however, they created the first of its kind, a community
benefit agreement, which has higher priorities for First Nation
employment, it allows for moneys to be put into communities for
addiction and substance abuse programs, as we are really underfunded
for those types of programs."

The Daily Press reached out to Wahgoshig First Nation's executive
director, Mylon Ollila, who declined to comment. Matachewan First
Nation is a partner with Wahgoshig in a cannabis investment company,
Mashkiki Investment LP. That company's president, Ann Batisse, did not
respond to multiple requests for comment.

DelShen's president, Dr. Barry Kurtzer, told The Daily Press in March
that there's potential for the company to expand into recreational
marijuana, depending on regulations imposed by the government when
it's legalized next year.

"We have copious room for development if it seems that it's favourable
for us to entertain going into the recreational market," said Kurtzer.
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