Notifications

First Nation chief says pot dispensary just a 'glorified drug dealer'

A marijuana dispensary on a first nation north of Sudbury says it isn't breaking the law by selling cannabis before it's officially legalized. But the chief of Wahnapitae First Nation disagrees and is trying to get the police to shut the pot shop down.

Marijuana dispensary says it does between $5,000 and $10,000 in sales every day

Marijuana for sale at the First Nations Medicinal shop on Wahnapitae First Nation, just north of Sudbury. (Erik White/CBC )

One step inside the trailer parked in a front yard and you get asked for identification proving you are over 19.

You also need to sign up as a patient of First Nations Medicinal. But it's alright to just be a "recreational patient."

But then you can purchase a sandwich bag full of marijuana from the dispensary on Wahnapitae First Nation, just north of Sudbury.

You can also purchase candies, tea and honey infused with cannabis, products which aren't covered by the new federal marijuana law that doesn't come into effect until this summer.

The owners of the dispensary say they sell between $5,000 and $10,000 most days.

"As far as I'm concerned this is just a glorified dealer. Dealing in drugs," says Wahnapitae First Nation Chief Ted Rocque.

He​ has been trying to get the dispensary shut down since it opened in September.

"Members come and talk to me on a daily basis: 'What is going on with this? When is this gentlemen going to get shut down?'"

But he hasn't convinced the Anishnabek Police to intervene. They also didn't make themselves available to CBC for a comment.

Ted Rocque is the chief of Wahanpitae First Nation (Erik White/CBC )

The owner of the dispensary Chadwick McGregor says United Nations declarations that Canada has endorsed gives him the right to sell pot.

"Kind of gives Indigenous people the right to barter, trade in any medicine that they see fit," he says.

McGregor says he got into marijuana when he was recovering from an opiate addiction, started growing it himself and then decided to open a dispensary.

He says he put in a new business request to the First Nation but got no response and decided to open up without permission. He alleges that Chief Rocque's opposition comes from the fact that a member of his family is aiming to open a second dispensary in the small community in the coming weeks.

Rocque says it's true his uncle is also looking to get into the marijuana business, but says he thinks that shop should be shut down too.

The chief says he asked McGregor to hold off on opening a dispensary until the community could decide if it welcomes this type of business and what regulations should be in place, such as where the store can be located and how the marijuana is sourced.

Rocque says he is in the process of organizing a community meeting for the coming weeks.

First Nations Medicinal says edibles like candies, tea and honey infused with marijuana are among their top sellers. (Erik White/CBC)

Chief Rocque believes the First Nation has the power to set its own laws regarding marijuana, but it's very hazy right now what the rules will be for selling pot on First Nations once it is a legal product in Canada.

The Anishnabek Nation, which covers 40 First Nations across the province, declined to comment on this issue until after a meeting on marijuana policy is held in March.

McGregor says he does believe there should be some kind of regulation of marijuana sales on First Nations.

But he has no plans to close up shop, even if he does get busted by the police.

"It's always in the back of my mind and it's always a worry. But I would just re-open again. I'm here to stay and I'm here to put up a fight," McGregor says.