Cannabis businesses start up on Tsuut'ina First Nation

An overwhelming number of people in the Tsuut'ina First Nation support growing and selling cannabis on the band's land and now some members are taking matters into their own hands.

Some Tsuut'ina Nation members are looking to pot to boost the community's finances

Stephanie Crowchild has been selling cannibis oils on the Tsuut'ina nation for about a week and says business is good. (Livia Manywounds/CBC)

Stephanie Crowchild received her first shipment of cannabis oils earlier this week and the Tsuut'ina Nation member is already looking to order more.

Crowchild owns Constant Creation, the first Tsuut'ina-based business to sell THC and CBD oils on the First Nation. She says a recent Indigenous pot conference on the Tsuut'ina Nation sparked her interest in starting the business.

She says she approached the CEO of Burnaby-based White Buffalo Botanicals at the November conference to ask about selling the company's cannabis oil.

Since then she says business has been good and she is already almost sold out. "I sell it for $60 per bottle, or two for $100," she said.

The Tsuut'ina member says the CBD oil she sells, which does not have psychoactive components, is the most popular, especially among members who are suffering from cancer and other illnesses. 

Stephanie Crowchild has been selling cannabis oils on the Tsuut'ina nation since attending an indigenous pot conference last month. (Livia Manywounds/CBC)

"It is important to learn about cannabis in relation to health benefits and treatment of illnesses," Crowchild said.

She also thinks cannabis is a good way to reduce the use of prescription opioids, which are "much more harmful," adding she has lost "loved ones" to opioid addiction.

Crowchild does not operate a standalone shop, instead she "operates as a mobile service," she says, adding it's legal for her to sell cannabis oils without a provincial license because she is making the sales on First Nation land.

"It's legal for me because I am Tsuut'ina, and we are on Crown land," she said. 

Tsuut'ina Chief Lee Crowchild says that for now she is right and that, "it isn't illegal right at the moment."

Crowchild says band officials are still working out the details around rules for selling and producing cannabis on First Nation land.

Chief Lee Crowchild says development of the cannabis industry on the Tsuut'ina First Nation could happen soon. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

There is currently a cannabis policy in place on the nation, which bans smoking in public, except designated areas.

Consumption is allowed in private residences. 

Tsuut'ina Nation held a referendum in August on how it would deal with cannabis legalization on First Nation land. Three questions were asked regarding the sale and production of cannabis on the reserve, with 91 per cent of nation members voted in favour of cannabis cultivation, production and sales on the reserve.

The Nation is currently in the process of obtaining a license from the federal government to produce cannabis. Tsuut'ina Coun. Brent Dodginghorse is part of the team heading up that process.

He says the nation is also in the process of negotiating with several potential partners for when the nation receives the green light to begin producing cannabis commercially.

Dodginghorse says a big part of those negotiations revolve around the nation maintaining ownership of any potential operations.

Coun. Brent Dodginghorse says the Tsuut'ina First Nation is in the process of applying for a license from the federal government to produce cannabis. (Images Unlimited)

"Council felt that is was important for the nation should own the licenses 100 per cent," said Dodginghorse.

He adds the nation is currently looking at sites on land that could serve as potential locations for any future cannabis production facilities.

"We have three locations picked, obviously it has to go back to council for approval on where these locations are," he said.  

Dodginghorse says that access to power and water are key considerations when choosing a site and it is difficult to say when any of the plans could become reality.

For his part, Chief Crowchild says he also doesn't know when things will come together but adds a deal could move forward at any time.

"This whole cannabis thing could happen just like that," he said.​

About the Author

Livia Manywounds

Reporter

Livia Manywounds is a reporter with the CBC in Calgary, a rodeo competitor and a proud member of the Tsuut’ina First Nation.