Applications for permits to sell retail cannabis on Six Nations will be available April 7.
The applications come as the Six Nations Cannabis Commission and Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council finalize and approve cannabis regulations on the territory.
The announcement came during a virtual community meeting held via SNGR’s Facebook page, with some community members expressing opposition to the commission and its regulations.
A cannabis law was first passed on Six Nations in 2019 shortly after the commission was created. In early 2020, right before the Covid pandemic resulted in worldwide shutdowns, a series of community meetings resulted in revisions to the law and the drafting of regulations for a cannabis industry here on Six Nations.
Kim Thomas, who has led the legal work for the commission, said the regulations allow Six Nations to exert jurisdiction over cannabis on the territory to the exclusion of federal or provincial laws.
“Six Nations has right to regulate and control cannabis,” she said.
Thomas said the commission aims to create regulations that protect the health and safety of Six Nations people, to exert jurisdiction over the cannabis industry, to promote fiscal self-sufficiency and to bring economic benefits from the industry to Six Nations people.
The commission answers to SNGR Elected Council, which approved amendments to the Six Nations Cannabis Law in late February, the meeting heard.
The regulations – which looks at issuing licenses, ensuring compliance with the Cannabis Control Law, inspections, testing, and import and export control – is almost finalized.
Thomas explained that the commission underwent numerous changes last year. Two new commission members have been appointed and the commission incorporated to protect individual commission and elected council members from personal legal liability.
The commission and SNGR will protect local retailers and growers if they face legal challenges, she said.
Some community members were concerned that retail sales would be taxed under the regulations but Thomas said all revenues earned from permit holders will be tax exempt.
The regulations also spell out protocols for testing to “ensure production standards are appropriate” and that cannabis products are free from mould, chemical or bacterial contamination.
Six Nations is expected to have an on-reserve testing facility by next year and products will be affixed with a stamp noting they’ve met Six Nations production standards, the meeting heard.
The commission is currently processing manufacturing license applications.
Elected Chief Mark Hill said the community cited health and safety as an industry priority during last year’s focus groups.
“Cannabis has always been here,” he said. “We need to protect the health and safety (of community members).”
Numerous people expressed concern with the regulations during the meeting, with one person asking what council would do if the community refused to accept the regulations of Six Nations Cannabis Law.
Elected Chief Hill said the community needs to come together to work on the regulations.
There’s also the risk of growers and retailers remaining in an “illegal bubble” if the industry is not regulated, said Thomas.
“We’ve seen what happens when it’s unregulated and it’s not good,” she said, noting that it creates a climate for organized crime, with no guarantees of a safe product. “Six Nations Police have confirmed (cannabis) products laced with other substances. There have been fatalities in the community. That’s been one of the key concerns of the community. They want to ensure health and safety with the cannabis industry. The only way to do that is with regulation. Six Nations wants to stand on its inherent rights for jurisdiction to regulate this economy. If we do not regulate the industry at all – there is nothing to protect our consumers coming onto the territory to purchase product.”
She said the Six Nations testing facility will be on par with other Health Canada-approved cannabis testing facilities.
“There’s going to be people in any industry that are not going to follow the rules,” said Thomas. “We’re hoping that the majority will.”
She said those who choose not to follow the law or regulations “will become an enforcement issue that will be up to council to address. If we’re self-regulating we have a greater likelihood of getting our people to follow that law. We’re hoping the majority (will follow).”
Another major complaint was the community contribution with some calling it a “tax” asking why businesses are being “forced” to provide the contribution.
“We don’t like the word tax,” said Thomas. “It’s always been framed as a community contribution,” she said, that speaks to the traditional Haudenosaunee value of giving back to the community for the people’s benefit.
Elected Chief Hill assured the community they did not want to see Six Nations Police working against the community when it comes to cannabis.
“The last thing we need to do is stay divided.”
Thomas also called for unity.
“I hope I live to see what we can accomplish when we start working together instead of working against each other. Six Nations is a serious threat to Ontario and Canada. Their greatest weapon is division of our people. If we can stop getting in our own way there will be no stopping what we can do.”
A financial model of the cannabis industry is also expected to be finalized and released publicly.