Indigenous

Kahnawake passes its own cannabis law, but businesses will have to wait a bit longer to set up shop

Even though the Mohawk community passed a Cannabis Control Law on Monday, a moratorium on distribution and sales of cannabis remains in effect until regulations under the law are developed and implemented.

Mohawk Council of Kahnawake enacted the Cannabis Control Law on Monday

Business partners Thomas Lahache and James Stacey want to bring their knowledge of the cannabis industry to Kahnawake, but will have to keep waiting before they can apply for a licence under the community's Cannabis Control Law. (Daniel J. Rowe/The Eastern Door)

The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake has passed its own law regulating the cannabis industry on-reserve, but there won't be marijuana grow-ops or dispensaries allowed in the community anytime soon.

Even though the Cannabis Control Law was enacted on Monday, a moratorium on distribution and sales of cannabis remains in effect until regulations under the law are developed and implemented.

It means people like Thomas Lahache, a Kahnawake resident who owns shares in a federally-licensed cultivator in Montreal, will have to keep waiting before he can apply to operate in his own community.

"We want to come home," said Lahache.

He and his business partner James Stacey own 29.5 per cent of Royalmax Biotechnology, as well as shares in four other companies awaiting a federal licence. They want to bring their knowledge of the industry to Kahnawake.

"I ultimately want economic development for our people," said Lahache.

Developing regulations

Following the law's enactment, council has 30 days to appoint a three-person committee tasked with establishing and administering regulations, including issuing licences for dispensaries or cultivation and processing facilities.

"It will still take us a couple of months once the law has passed before anything is actually up and running," said council chief Rhonda Kirby.  

"But we're confident that the law has finally been passed. We've certainly had some issues along the way at the last couple of meetings that we had."

Rhonda Kirby has been the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake chief responsible for ensuring the Cannabis Control Law followed the processes required under Kahnawake's Community Decision-Making Process. (Jessica Deer/CBC)

The law was originally planned to roll out on Oct. 17 in time for federal legalization, but consultation meetings were prolonged with complaints about the legislative process and council's involvement in the development of the law. Then, things got ugly.

Due to "disrespectful and threatening behaviours exhibited by some community members" at meetings, consultations were cut short and council passed a resolution to enact the law.

'It's a waiting game'

Lahache, who attended several of the meetings, said the enactment is a good step forward but he still has questions waiting to be answered once the board establishes regulations, including what licence fees, price points for cannabis products and a "mandatory community contribution" that will be remitted to the Mohawk Council will entail.

"It's a waiting game until they actually figure out what they're charging and how much it is and what the actual regulations are for the application process," he said.

"You have to look at the losses they're going to take in what you call a "mandatory community contribution" or a tax. If you're a startup company, you don't have access to hundreds of millions of dollars."

About the Author

Jessica Deer

Journalist

Jessica Deer is Kanien’kehá:ka from Kahnawake. A former staff reporter for the Eastern Door, she works in CBC's Indigenous unit based in Montreal. Email her at jessica.deer@cbc.ca or follow her on Twitter @Kanhehsiio.