Quebec's bill to set out rules for legal marijuana distribution and consumption does little to soothe concerns in the Mohawk community of Kahnawake about what's coming on July 1.
The provincial government tabled Bill 172 Thursday, detailing how the sale and distribution of pot is to unfold in the province when cannabis becomes legal across Canada next summer.
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Gina Deer, a chief of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake, was unimpressed by the bill, saying it appeared that Quebec — like other provinces — is scrambling to meet the deadline set by Ottawa.
"It just shows that they're as unprepared as everyone else," Deer said. "Nobody's prepared, and it's showing in the way they're putting out their models."
If passed, the bill will restrict marijuana consumption to people 18 years and older but permit its use in most public spaces.
That runs up against the Kahnawake Mohawk Council's long-standing efforts to curb recreational marijuana use on its territory.
Deer described marijuana as a "taboo" substance in the community, noting it's had a zero-tolerance drug policy for 25 years.
"Right now there is a big concern about what [legalization] will look like," she said. "Where are people going to be smoking the product?"
Manufacture but no distribution
Earlier this fall, the Mohawk Council imposed a moratorium on the production, distribution and sale of cannabis. The community wants to pass its own legislation before the moratorium is lifted.
Deer and other members of the council's cannabis working group have been seeking input from the community about what the legislation should contain.
"We think it's important to put our own legislation in place and have our community's wishes respected and keep it in line with our values," said Deer.
So far, she said, the consultations have revealed an openness to the manufacture of recreational marijuana but a reticence at the possibility of distribution centres within the community.
"They like the idea of the economic development side of it — the revenue generation, the job creation," said Deer. "They like they idea of having the product shipped out and distributed somewhere else."
The proposed provincial law prohibits any unlicensed production of marijuana for personal or commercial use, and limits the sale and distribution of marijuana to a subsidiary of the SAQ, the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQC).
The agency is also to offer online sales, and products will be delivered by Canada Post.
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Other Indigenous leaders in Quebec have also expressed concerns about what legalization might mean for their communities, many of which ban alcohol as a way of dealing with substance abuse issues.
"We already have a lot of problems linked to alcohol," Abel Bosum, Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees of Northern Quebec, said last month.
"Cannabis stores will only add to the stress and problems that weigh on our communities."