Marijuana may be legalized across Canada in October, but Six Nations – the most populous First Nation in Canada – is working on its own legislation, with the hope of protecting the health and well-being of its people.
Part of the reason for the legislation is that they were excluded from the discussions regarding the nation’s legislation proposal.
The legislation means that Six Nations will need to create a revenue-sharing plan with Ottawa, as well as plans for taxation and self-regulation. The leaders of the indigenous group maintain that cannabis production is protected under the self-determination stipulation of the Constitution and is a right of First Nations.
Meanwhile, Kahnawake, Quebec, is home to the Kanien’keha:ka community, which is also working on cannabis legislation for their own community. Residents have had a chance to share concerns and opinions regarding drafts of the legislation since August. Meanwhile, the representatives of a group working on the legislation say that Quebec regulations will not impact their community, as cannabis regulation falls under the jurisdiction of the territory.
One notable difference between the Quebec laws and those that will be enforced in the indigenous territory is the legal age for consumption. While Quebec residents will be permitted to use marijuana at age 18, the indigenous community will have to wait until age 21 to partake.
Representatives say that working on legislation regarding cannabis is an effort to avoid problems with an increase in charges for community members, competition for sales, and other issues that arose when tobacco laws were lax.
Dispensaries have already opened in some First Nations communities, which has led to a moratorium on the sale and distribution of marijuana in the territory until legislation is in place. Some of these dispensaries have been shut down more than once already.
Research and community input are an important facet of legislation for the indigenous peoples, and that alone has them moving forward with their efforts despite promises to create a Senate standing committee to critique the legislation that will put into effect in October. Health Canada maintains it is working to keep communication open with the indigenous nations, but work on legislation continues.