Indigenous communities hope to cash in on cannabis, but how they'll do it is unclear
Despite legalization, issues such as revenue sharing remain, says Grand Chief
Recreational marijuana will be legal in Canada for the first time in nearly a century on Wednesday and Jamie Kunkel is excited.
"From an economic standpoint, it's a whole new industry which is going to create a whole lot of new jobs," Kunkel, the owner of medical marijuana dispensary Smoke Signals on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, told Cross Country Checkup's Duncan McCue.
"It's a choice people get to make about their own medication and well-being."
Marijuana legalization in the country has spurred a so-called green rush as companies begin to cash in on the growing industry.
Kunkel's Smoke Signals has four franchises — all Indigenous-owned and on Indigenous land — and he hopes that number will expand once legalization takes effect.
"It would be nice to have the opportunity to be able to participate in the outside economy, as well as the on-reserve economy," he said.
'Left out of the equation'
On Sunday, Checkup opened the lines to Canadians to share their thoughts on the upcoming legislation.
While some worried about secondhand smoke and the long-term effects of marijuana use, others were optimistic about how easier availability could benefit some communities.
Regarding second-hand smoke from marijuana, our in-studio guest Dr. Peter Lin says more research needs to be conducted to determine the effects. In the meantime, he says we should be concerned about children's exposure to the smoke in enclosed spaces, such as cars.—@checkupcbc
Cannabis is the world's greatest plant. No other single plant combines the nutritional, industrial, medicinal and spiritual benefits of cannabis.<br><br>This change in the law is the first step to returning cannabis to a position of prominence in our medicine, industry and society.—@DanaLarsen
Grand Chief Joel Abram sees both sides of the coin.
The head of London, Ont.-based Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians understands the potential economic boost marijuana could provide Indigenous communities.
Still, he worries that existing issues could fall by the wayside.
"We've sort of been left out of the equation when it comes to cannabis," Abram said.
Among his concerns are revenue sharing — whether First Nations will see a cut of taxes charged on cannabis products — and whether First Nations will be able to adequately educate young peoples about its risks.
"We're really concerned about youth mental health and we have no resources whereas municipalities, they've been promised a third of the revenues from the province," he said.
Business is brisk
According to Kunkel, many of his competitors — he says there are over 40 dispensaries in Tyendinaga — are doing their part in supporting their communities.
Some stores hosted giveaways around Thanksgiving for "any family in need," Kunkel said. Education is among his company's contributions.
"I'm currently in the process of building an education centre right here on the 49 highway," he said.
"We will be trying to hold weekly seminars and classes for just that purpose: to educate the community, the youth [and] the leaders of the community."
Meanwhile, business is good. Kunkel told CBC in January he can make between $5,000 and $10,000 a day.