We knew this was coming:
Under the federal government’s Bill C-45, provinces and territories were responsible for determining how cannabis is distributed and sold. But where indigenous communities – which fall under the federal Indian Act – fit into this picture is still unclear, given questions about jurisdiction and self-governance.
Canada’s Minister of Indigenous Services Jane Philpott told the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples earlier this month that the government is working on addressing concerns regarding jurisdictional issues.
“I know that indigenous communities, organizations and businesses have spoken up about jurisdictional concerns but specifically the exercise of First Nation bylaw-making powers in relation to the legalization and regulation of cannabis,” Philpott told the committee.
“Our government recognizes and respects the jurisdiction of indigenous governments. We will continue to work with First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities to address and accommodate jurisdictional issues in an appropriate way moving forward.”
In Ontario, the only legal option to purchase cannabis until April will be through the province-run online store. Under the province’s proposed legislation, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) will grant licenses to private retailers ahead of an April 1 launch.
Under the same proposed legislation, First Nations can opt out of that private retail model through a band council resolution. Brian Gray, a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Attorney General, said in an emailed statement that any store located within a First Nations reserve would require approval by the communities’ Chief and Council via band resolution before the AGCO issues a license.