Nova Scotia

First Nations give province 1-year notice of plan to open marijuana shops

First Nations members in Nova Scotia say they have the jurisdiction to set their own rules when it comes to cannabis, but want to work with the province to adhere to their guidelines. Chiefs from across the province have agreed to give the government one year before opening on-reserve stores.

New retail spaces would mean more access to cannabis with stores open to the public

Bob Gloade, chief of the Millbrook First Nation, says he wants to see a retail cannabis store on his First Nation's reserve, but is open to working with the province to match prices and products with existing NSLC stores. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

First Nations in Nova Scotia plan to open retail cannabis stores on reserves, but they are hoping to work with provincial officials to keep prices and products consistent with existing retailers.

Chief Bob Gloade of the Millbrook First Nation said after months of discussions, chiefs from across Nova Scotia have agreed to give the provincial government a year to consider its options.

"We're not looking to undercut anybody or take something away from the province," said Gloade.

First Nations can set their own rules 

While First Nations hope to work with the province, they aren't necessarily required to do so.

Under the federal Indian Act, Indigenous band councils can make their own bylaws on reserves that cover "intoxicants." They can prohibit the manufacture and sale of intoxicants, and create exceptions. 

Recreational marijuana became legal in Canada on Wednesday. (CBC)

Under provincial legislation, the government could authorize new individuals or groups to sell cannabis.

Currently only 12 NSLC stores across the province can sell the newly legalized drug.

More access. Same products and prices

If the province chooses to work with First Nations, Gloade said the on-reserve stores could have the same products and prices as the NSLC stores.

The on-reserve stores would also generate tax revenue for the province and offer more convenient access for rural residents who may have to travel long distances to buy legal marijuana.

"The profits that would be generated from this opportunity would benefit our entire community," said Gloade. 

Province says 'No' for now

Andrew Preeper, a government spokesperson, released a statement saying the province acknowledges and appreciates the ongoing open dialogue with First Nations, but has no immediate plans to change the way marijuana is sold.

"There are no plans to authorize other sellers," the statement said. "As the market develops and we learn more about the impact of legalization on our society, we must be adaptable. This could include evolving the retail model.

"If government decides to move in that direction, Mi'kmaq communities and others would be welcomed to participate in this discussion."

About the Author

Brett Ruskin

Reporter/Videojournalist

Brett Ruskin is a reporter and videojournalist covering everything from local breaking news to national issues. He's based in Halifax.