OHSWEKEN – Around 140 people drifted in an out all Sunday afternoon to gather information or voice support, or lack thereof, for Six Nations future with medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries located on reserve. Jeff Henhawk aka Hawk and Aaron Sault hosted the event in an attempt to bring the subject up for discussion among Six Nations
OHSWEKEN – Around 140 people drifted in an out all Sunday afternoon to gather information or voice support, or lack thereof, for Six Nations future with medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries located on reserve.
Jeff Henhawk aka Hawk and Aaron Sault hosted the event in an attempt to bring the subject up for discussion among Six Nations people of all ages. Outlined were results of many reliable research resources touting the positive physical, emotional and even spiritual affects the use of marijuana can bring to those who suffer from a litany of health and psychological related issues.
There was reading material made available for all and a PowerPoint presentation extolling the praises of pot, but organizers insist they also want to hear from those who are not in favour to discuss the issues troublesome to them as well.
Surveys taken earlier this year at “Green Health for 6” dispensary on Highway 54, plus a mailed out survey sent to 2,300 Six Nations and New Credit households, brought in 731 responses.
“A total of 731 people completed the survey, with 626 respondents providing their Indian Status numbers,” said Hawk. As was pointed out, that number may appear small to represent a consensus, but “it is still more response than the Band Council gets for elections.”
The survey was conducted throughout the month of December and full page adds taken out in local media to promote the discussion.
Many who came had viable and important questions to ask about the initiative before giving any response to the bigger question of availability on reserve, but those issues seem to be well down the road. Serious questions like how SN cannabis dispensaries would avoid taxation, considering that is the real reason behind the Canadian government making it legal. If the Onkwehonwe tobacco industry could not keep tax from creeping onto the reserve, they will not be giving this huge cash cow away without a fight, and a big one too.
However, there was a lot of data presented that would indicate that, at least, this is a subject that needs to be address and discussed openly and rationally. Some said the survey was stacked towards a desired result, with most responders self identified as steady users already.
When you mix traditional health practices, with Canadian law and a whole lot of unregulated money, it makes for a dangerous mix of mistrust, greed and potential criminality. But it’s not the pot itself causing all the fear, proponents would say. It’s going to be necessary to agree to some form of structured overseeing body to regulate the on-reserve trade.
It is also Hawk’s vision to ask some sort of fee or percentage requirement of Six Nations and New Credit dispensaries to gather in and disperse the proceeds to local needs. The plan does not sound dissimilar from the recent attempts at regulating Six Nations tobacco trade, which did not work, but with the health benefits of marijuana, the argument is muted.
The health benefits would be well worth the risk, and should be considered along with how to regulate the trade.
Logical and treaty based objections to many provincial laws and taxes being applied (even if it is illegally) on reserves have not worked well in courts to date. But now we are talking about a multi-billion dollar industry just about to blow open and one can only guess how much more of a battle is yet to begin.
Hawk’s own dispensary, Green Health for 6, has been closed once already by police who removed a good load of marijuana products and cash. But days later, the doors were back open and he was doing a steady business.
The question and answer period was active and respectful, for the most part. But at one point a visitor to the reserve created a disturbance by attempting to highjack the meeting to promote some scheme or another.
This is an issue that is not going away, and Hawk promises more similar information exchanges with the community for the near future.