Pubdate: Wed, 13 Dec 2017
Source: Edmonton Sun (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Canoe Limited Partnership.
Author: Kristy Kirkup
Page: 47


Indigenous leaders ask where they stand in legal marijuana plan

OTTAWA - Indigenous leaders looking at the prospect of legalized
marijuana in Canada say they don't see a route to riches, but rather a
serious risk that the black market in pot will set its sights on their
vulnerable communities.

Isadore Day, the Ontario regional chief of the Assembly of First
Nations, said Tuesday he fears for Indigenous community safety because
the federal government is moving too quickly with its plans to
legalize pot by July 2018.

"First Nations are not just looking at this as a cash cow," Day said
in an interview.

"We have very legitimate concerns and fears about what legalization of
cannabis is going to do, the types of things it is ...potentially
going to create in our communities."

Day called it embarrassing that Indigenous leaders weren't invited to
take part in Monday's meeting of finance ministers, and said he and
Quebec Regional Chief Ghislain Picard are leading discussions on how
First Nations communities will address the impacts of legal pot.

"This is a problem and I don't think that there's been a deep dive
done yet on the full breadth of implications on our communities," said
Day, who called it "backwards" that Ottawa would commit to a
cost-sharing agreement without Indigenous leaders in the room.

On Monday, Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced a two-year deal
that will see Ottawa give 75 per cent of tax revenues to the provinces
and territories while Ottawa retains 25 per cent, to a maximum of $100
million a year.

Morneau, who originally floated a 50-50 split, said larger share will
allow the provinces and territories to fairly deal with costs and
allow for them to work with municipalities, who have also advocated
for at least a third of the revenue.

Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott said the implications of
legal cannabis for Indigenous communities are being discussed,
including at a special chiefs gathering held last week in Ottawa by
the Assembly of First Nations.

"It certainly has come up on many occasions," she said.

Day has also raised concerns that the federal government won't cover
the cost of medicinal marijuana for people living on reserve, even
though they do for other medically necessary drugs. "We entered into
treaties," he said. "We have to stand our ground ... the right to have
health care covered ... we will continue to push so that applies."

Cannabis is not currently eligible for coverage through the First
Nations Inuit health branch, Health Canada confirmed Tuesday, noting
medications must meet appropriate criteria, including a drug
identification number, a doctor's prescription and dispensation by a

"There are no forms of medical cannabis that currently meet these
conditions," the department said in a statement.
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