HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Pot Business Embraced
Pubdate: Fri, 05 Jan 2018
Source: Northern News (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 Northern News
Contact: http://www.northernnews.ca/letters
Website: http://www.northernnews.ca/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/2315
Author: Gemma Karstens-Smith
Page: A1

POT BUSINESS EMBRACED

First Nations invest in KL marijuana business

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

Phil Fontaine, an Indigenous politician turned marijuana executive,
has spent the past 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," said the former national chief of the Assembly of First
Nations. "First Nations are speaking about possibilities and
potential. So it's been very encouraging. "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.

One cannabis company in Kirkland Lake, for example, has teamed up with
local Indigenous communities.

Forty-nine First Nations have invested in 48North Cannabis,
representing about 20 per cent of the company's current shareholder
base, said CEO Alison Gordon.

48North also has community benefit agreements with two Indigenous
communities near its operations in Kirkland Lake. The company provides
preferential hiring, and funding for drug and alcohol education,
Gordon said.

The company is awaiting final approval from Health Canada before
sending medical marijuana to market, and is eyeing the recreational
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
communities."

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 traditionally had
lower access to the drug.

"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
said in an interview.

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. "Our commitment is to make sure that any
knowledge that we have or we continue to gain, that we're sharing and
we're always there to support."

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.

Other communities in B.C. believe cannabis could be a boon and are
asking the provincial government to help ensure they get a piece of
the emerging market.

In recent 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.

"It is obvious that there is potential for cannabis to become an
economic foundation for some First Nations communities," says the
submission from the Ucluelet First Nation. "With proper consultation
about regulation, this potential could be celebrated and fostered."
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MAP posted-by: Matt