Former AFN national chief moves into medicinal marijuana business
Phil Fontaine is now the lead of Indigenous Roots, a medicinal cannabis company
A former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations has moved into the medicinal marijuana business.
Phil Fontaine, who was also previously the grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, is now the lead of Indigenous Roots, a medicinal cannabis company.
"Our primary interest here of course is business opportunities, job creation, it's about the Indigenous economy, job opportunities, and it's about training," Fontaine said.
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The goal of the company is to work cooperatively with First Nations towards building and operating licensed facilities and providing medical cannabis to First Nations patients. To reach that goal, Indigenous Roots partnered with Cronos Group, a cannabis company that already operates two wholly-owned licensed producer facilities — one in Ontario and the other in British Columbia.
"It's about doing whatever is necessary to make a difference in terms of ensuring that Indigenous people have access to quality products when it comes to medical cannabis and that they are able to access good service," Fontaine said.
"Because when we look at the Indigenous community, I mean it's an under-served community and so our approach is to ensure that we are able to deliver good service to our people."
Through the partnership, Indigenous roots will be able to quickly enter the medicinal marijuana market, Fontaine said. The flagship Indigenous Roots facility will be located in British Columbia at Cronos' In The Zone Produce facility in the Okanagan Valley.
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Cronos CEO Michael Gorenstein said the partnership will benefit everyone involved.
"As we started serving the landscape we really saw that there wasn't a lot of involvement of the Indigenous community and we reached out and tried to find someone influential that could really help us reach the under-served group," Gorenstein said. "Phil Fontaine to us is really the perfect guy."
Gorenstein said they hope to expand and license additional facilities on First Nations reserves in the future. However, the initial roll out won't happen until Spring 2017.
When asked about concerns surrounding addictions, Fontaine added the partners are very sensitive about the issue.
"We are certainly not going to do anything that contributes to addictions. I, for certain, understand the huge challenges our community faces about addictions, but this is clearly not about that," he said.