Carry the Kettle Nakoda Nation in Saskatchewan has decided to set up a cannabis wholesale business on 350,000 sq. ft. of reserve land.

The First Nation has teamed up with a British Columbia-based firm called Indigenous Bloom to launch the ambitious project. Chief Brady O’Watch said it represented an economic opportunity that his nation could not afford to pass up.

“One of the main purposes of what we’re doing is to create economic prosperity for my nation and this was something that was long overdue and will be able to supply jobs to our people,” he said.

The First Nation purchased land and existing facilities two years ago at the site of the former Indian Head Tree Nursery, and the plot received reserve land designation in December. Construction can now begin, and Indigenous Bloom promised that it would not cut any corners.

Executive chairman Robert Louie said the business has been set up specifically to work with First Nations on building cultivation facilities and retail stores on their land. He pledged to adhere to all Health Canada regulations and deliver a “first rate” operation.

Carry the Kettle indicated that the project will begin in the spring, but it could not yet put a definitive budget on the project as it is awaiting inspections from engineers.

Towards the end of 2019, the federal government began talks with First Nation leaders regarding how best to carve out First jurisdiction over the cannabis industry on their territories. The Cannabis Act sees Ottawa take 25% of excise tax, with the remaining 75% going to the provinces and territories, but it did not make provisions for First Nations.

Some indigenous leaders have urged the federal government to amend the Cannabis Act to allow First Nations to have jurisdiction over the industry on their land, to maximize economic potential and to avoid conflicts.

They have been at the mercy of provincial governments regarding dispensaries and facilities on reserve lands, and this sits uneasily with some leaders that feel they should only enjoy a nation-to-nation relationship with Ottawa. Several First Nations across the country are drafting or have passed their own cannabis laws, but it is unclear whether or not they will be able to enforce them.

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