Contraband Cannabis

Tobacco production on Six Nations used to be taboo among our own people.

It was a different political climate in the early days. Because of Oka and the Mohawk Warrior Society movement the Canadian government used propaganda techniques to criminalize Indigenous efforts to jump-start a Mohawk economy. Canada then associated Mohawk production of cigarettes with “organized crime” because they realized the huge tax dollars that would be bypassing their revenue agency coffers. They put people in jail back then. Lots of Six Nations people were against cigarettes in 1990.

The smear campaign persists until today repackaged by Ontario as the anti-contraband tobacco message.

Fast forward a good 20 years and everybody is on board with tobacco production and cigarette manufacturing at Six Nations. There isn’t that same moral shaming amongst our own if someone has a factory in their garage, or has their own retail outlet. We appreciate that Ontario and Canada has no right to tell us how to run our economy, it’s up to us.

It may be impossible for HCCC and Elected Council to join hands and be equals because they are two completely different styles of governance. A damn shame though. Imagine if they could have worked together in the ‘90s to get behind tobacco. They both sat together at the negotiation tables in 2007 maybe they could sit down together again. Not to combine governments, but to come to some sort of agreement just on one issue.

Forbes magazine says that the budding Cannabis Industry in Canada will be worth as much as $8 billion when it becomes legal July 1, 2018. It will be controlled the same way the Canadian government handles liquor and sold at LCBO type outlets across the province. To meet the low-end estimates for this new market, Canadian growers would need to produce more than 600,000 kg per year.

If Justin Trudeau was really serious about reconciliation he would hand over the $8 billion industry and put every single indigenous nation to work doing what our families have done for millennia — cultivating medicinal plants and working the land. Imagine how much our reservations would improve with that kind of economy boost. We have the land and the knowledge.

A few quick facts. In 2015, Justice Gethin Edward ruled that the aboriginal right to practise traditional medicine is protected under Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution. There is increasing evidence showing endocannabinoids can slow and/or reverse cancer and tumour growth. Cannabis is also used to medically treat anxiety, depression and pain.

So let’s ask each other this qustion – Is cannabis a traditional medicine, or no?

Could both councils could come together to regulate the medical substance on our territory or perhaps for a piece of that $8 billion industry?

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