HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html First Nations See 'Unprecedented Opportunity' In Ontario Pot
Pubdate: Sat, 09 Sep 2017
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Blair Crawford
Page: A3


Ontario's proposed marijuana distribution system is "an unprecedented
opportunity" for First Nations, but poses "considerable risks," warns
Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day.

Day, who was briefed Friday morning by Attorney General Yasir Naqvi
and Finance Minister Charles Sousa, said First Nations will work with
the province in the coming months to hammer out details about how
marijuana sales will be handled and regulated.

In a statement, Day said First Nations have traditionally been
neglected when it comes to revenue sharing, but hoped the proposed
Cannabis Control Act would allow them to "turn a new leaf" and benefit
directly from the sale of marijuana.

"To say the least, this is an unprecedented opportunity for First
Nations to be fully involved at the very beginning of an industry that
has enormous potential, as well as considerable risks," Day said.

While some communities will want to participate in the market, others
might choose to ban the sale of marijuana, similar to "dry"
communities that are alcohol free, he said.

"Any legislation needs to have the flexibility to support First
Nations communities in pursuing development in ways that align with
their own specific cultural and community values," Day said.

As recently as April, Day had criticized the government for not
talking about its marijuana plans with First Nations groups.

"The level of discussion that has occurred so far on the legalization
of marijuana with First Nations in Ontario has been slim to none," he
said at the time.

First Nations will begin bilateral talks with the province in the
coming months to provide input on the Cannabis Control Act. The
negotiations with the province stem from the 2015 political accord
between Ontario and First Nations.

Naqvi said Friday that he's open to the talks.

"We've been working with them and there's more respectful
conversations to be had, in a government-to-government relationship
that we have with Indigenous communities, if they want to be involved,
on how they can be," he said.

Grand Chief Abram Benedict of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne near
Cornwall said the council will have talks with the community about how
to proceed on marijuana.

Akwesasne straddles the border of Ontario and Quebec, as well as New
York state, where marijuana remains illegal.

Akwesasne is one of two First Nations in Ontario that has signed a
tobacco pilot project with the provincial government that allows it to
regulate the manufacturing and sales of cigarettes on the reserve and
collect the revenue.

The tobacco pilot project could be a model to regulate the marijuana
industry too, he said.
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