Cannabis has been legal in Canada since 2018. For some First Nations in Canada, getting into the cannabis business has meant going from managing poverty to managing wealth. For other First Nations, there are few opportunities because of strict liquor and cannabis laws in their territory or province. CKLB Radio spoke with Fred Behrens, former senior administrative officer (SAO) for Aklavik and Chief Willie Sellars from the Williams Lake First Nation about the challenges and opportunities of growing and selling cannabis in their communities.
In an effort to create jobs and stimulate the economy in Aklavik, Fred Behrens and the community of Aklavik’s created a strategy to open a grow operation in Aklavik. The idea was quickly shut down by the GNWT. It was decided early on that the legalization of cannabis in the NWT that cannabis would remain prohibited in dry communities just as alcohol is.
It’s another niche, you know, we’re a resource based economy here in Williams Lake, we have logging, we have forestry, we have mining, what we’re trying to do is diversify and create these different business niches for our membership.
In BC, Chief Willie Sellars from the Williams Lake First Nation had a far different experience than Fred Behrens and the Aklavik council. While the BC government has enacted what is called Section 119 of their Cannabis Control Licensing Act to include First Nations the NWT does not have such a section in its cannabis act.
On February 10th CKLB Radio requested a written response from Minister Wawzonek’s Office and we have not yet received a response.