Pubdate: Mon, 23 Oct 2017
Source: Peterborough Examiner, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Peterborough Examiner
Author: Pete Fisher
Page: A1


ALDERVILLE - There are different opinions on whether a marijuana
dispensary located on Alderville First Nation is legal.

The Medicine Wheel Natural Healing - Indigenous Healing Through
Medicinal Cannabis is located on County Road 45 in Alderville, north
of Cobourg.

It had a "soft" opening in June and has been doing a brisk business
since then.

Owner Rob Stevenson, who lives on Alderville First Nation and belongs
to the Bear Clan, said in a interview on the business's Facebook page
that it is a holistic healing centre and "creating a economic boom for
the community," and also helping people "rise up from poverty."

Stevenson describes himself in the interview as having a lot of
morals, values and ethics.

Stevenson said the Medicine Wheel Natural Healing had a "really good
acknowledgement from chief and council. They are very supportive of

But when contacted by Northumberland Today, Alderville First Nation
Chief James Marsden said he couldn't comment on the matter because he
is in conflict, as Stevenson is his nephew.

Stevenson said by way of video on the businesses site when a new
customer comes in to the store they will go to a "consultation
counter" where they fill out a form about ailments.

"We get a lot of information from them," he said. "They get a
membership card and everything they purchase goes under their file.
"Importance of that is we can monitor how the medications are working
for our customers - maybe it's to strong, not strong enough."

Reached by phone, Stevenson said "It's legal. We are on sovereign
territory. So the provincial and federal government can't dictate what
we do."

Stevenson said it's similar to the tobacco laws. "We're a sovereign
nation, so it depends what each community wants to do."

Stevenson said a different dispensary located on Alderville First
Nation was raided by OPP last year and the owner was charged.

Even though it was on a reservation, Stevenson said the owner was not
Indige and that's why he was charged.

"That's why all my staff are First Nation," he said.

Stevenson said he spoke with Northumberland OPP Insp. Lisa Darling who
said the business was fine, but if he was aware any type of criminal
element coming in to notify police immediately and police also wanted
his security system monitored. Darling didn't respond to requests for

One item Stevenson does add is if people do buy it on the reserve, if
they go off, "they could be prosecuted. If they got caught and don't
have a prescription, then absolutely they could get in trouble for

Staff Sgt. Carolle Dionne, an Ontario Provincial Police media
relations coordinator, said if a First Nation community has its own
policing service, that service would enforce the laws around medical
marijuana dispensaries.

Since there is no First Nation community police in Alderville, it
would be up to the Ontario Provincial Police to enforce, she said.

The federal government is proposing to make marijuana legal with
strict regulations by July 1, 2018, but until that time, even if a
marijuana dispensary is on a reservation, they are still illegal,
states the OPP.

"The concern remains with these dispensaries, they are not authorized
by the government licensing bodies to dispense marijuana," Dionne
said. "Because they are not licensed, they are not authorized. Even
today, right now their legal standing and expectation is we're going
to enforce the law because it is considered sort of trafficking of
illegal products. It's an illegal activity - these dispensaries. Our
stance is, if it's illegal we will enforce the law until told otherwise."

Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day, who represents 133 chiefs across
Ontario, said marijuana dispensaries on First Nations land is
inevitable. Day said he had been to dispensaries and was "quite
impressed by the way some of these dispensaries have started to create
a level of excellence in their own facilities.

"If we know dispensaries and distribution and economy is going to be
created in the mainstream, why not First Nation?"

But, Day added, "everything right now is illegal."

Day said at this stage, with the new laws taking effect in the near
future, there is very little enforcement.

"That moratorium on enforcement seems pretty consistent across the
board," he said. "This is I believe why the federal government is
moving very quickly to put legislation in place."

Day said although marijuana isn't part of the Indigenous medicine
wheel, he explains, "we know that marijuana or the cannabis plant has
been part of this continent.

"What our people will tell you is whatever grows on this land, will be
part of that relationship that we have and we have every right to
coexist and responsibility to co-exist with that on our land and in
our territories."

Day said it's a very important discussion and will be a

"But the direction of medical cannabis, recreational cannabis - it's
going to happen and our people will certainly secure our rightful
place using it as a formal medicine and using as their economic right."

Some Indigenous communities have made it clear they do not want
dispensaries on their land and that is their wish, and right, he said.

"The difference between colonial governments and First Nation
governments, despite the fact the Indian Act is there and there is
supposed assumed authority the Federal Government has over First
Nation people, it simply isn't the case within our

It's a complex question for each community to discuss and also to
decide, he said.

Day said just days ago he secured a mandate from the Assembly of First
Nations executive and he will be heading up a national working group
on cannabis with the Regional Chief in Quebec.

They will be looking at the cannabis legislation on four perspectives,
health, social, economic and jurisdictional.

"Our work over the next several months will be to make sure our
communities are getting the proper information that we coordinate
discussions with various parts of government and that our regions
(Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan) have the ability a bit more so they
are engagement ready and how provincial jurisdiction will apply and
how provinces and territories are going to respond to the Cannabis

"We're working hard to make sure our First Nation are going to be
intelligently response to C-45 and 46 and we need to make sure our
First Nations are going to be safe, secure and if we can prosper they
can do that as well."
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