Pubdate: Fri, 29 Dec 2017
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Gemma Karstens- Smith
Page: FP1


Vancouver - Canada's marijuana industry is expanding rapidly and some
First Nations are looking to cash in on the emerging economic

Phil Fontaine, an Indigenous politician turned marijuana executive,
has spent the last year travelling the country and talking to First
Nations about jobs, wealth and training opportunities the burgeoning
marijuana business could bring.

"Everywhere we've been, it's been the same reaction, interest,
excitement. First Nations are speaking about possibilities and
potential. So it's been very encouraging," said the former national
chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

Marijuana businesses represent "tremendous potential" for First
Nations, partially because communities are able to get in on the
ground floor, instead of fighting to catch up years later as has
traditionally been the case, Fontaine said.

"This is a unique opportunity. This sector is different than any other
the Indigenous community has experienced. Everyone is starting off at
the same point," he said in a telephone interview.

Fontaine is the CEO of Indigenous Roots, a medical marijuana company
operated by and for First Nations across Canada. The company is a
joint venture with Cronos Group, a medical-marijuana grower licensed
by Health Canada. Once Indigenous Roots is operating, its profits will
be split evenly between partner First Nations and Cronos.

Though recreational marijuana is set to become legal this summer,
Indigenous Roots will focus on supplying prescription pot to First
Nations communities, which Fontaine said have had lower access to the

"We want to make sure that this particular service is made available
to our communities in every part of the country," he said.

Plans are in the works to build an Indigenous Roots growing facility
next to an existing Cronos facility in Armstrong, B. C., with the aim
of serving patients by the end of 2018, Cronos CEO Mike Gorenstein

Current Cronos workers will train First Nations employees to run the
Indigenous Roots operation, he said.

"Long term and medium term, this is meant to be an Indigenous-
operated company," Gorenstein said.

The new facility will create between 30 and 50 jobs, plus other
opportunities in marketing, sales and accounting, Gorenstein said.
Future operations will likely be even bigger, he added.

A cannabis company in northern Ontario has also teamed up with local
Indigenous c ommunities. Forty-nine First Nations have invested in
48North Cannabis, representing about 20 per cent of the company's
shareholder base, said CEO Alison Gordon.

48North also has community benefit agreements with two Indigenous
communities near its operations in Kirkland Lake, Ont. The company
provides preferential hiring, and funding for drug and alcohol
education, Gordon said. The firm is awaiting final approval from
Health Canada before sending medical marijuana to market, Gordon said.

First Nations will help direct the company's growth, she added. "It's
just part of our DNA. I mean, we want to work with our First Nations
partners to figure out how to create products and brands that would be
important to their communities, to help educate their

Other communities in B.C. believe cannabis could be a boon. In
submissions to the government's consultation on cannabis regulations,
the Lake Cowichan and Ucluelet First Nations urged the province to
implement a rule that requires a certain percentage of marijuana
products be grown by Indigenous cultivators.
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