CBC Good copy has learned that the Opaskwayak Cree Nation in Manitoba has taken a important stake in a medical marijuana company, with an eye to becoming a big player in the trade of pot once it becomes legal.
The First Nation, located approximately 530 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, has obtained $3 million worth — approximately 10 per cent — of shares in State Access Cannabis. The privately held company will be traded publicly for the firstly time Friday on the TSX Venture Exchange.
OCN Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair communicated the investment represents a shift in thinking. Where marijuana was once partially of the war on drugs, the plant will be now be part of the war on poverty in his community, Sinclair maintained.
“The fact of the matter is [the sale of marijuana] is happening before our eyes and the alone people who are profiting is the black market, so this will bring us to the forefront totally quickly.”
National Access Cannabis currently operates 10 medical marijuana clinics in sees across Canada.
OCN and other investors in the company are counting on provincial sways allowing the private sector to sell pot to customers, instead of setting up provincially run distributors.
The associates will not get into the production of pot, instead relying on federally licensed creators for its supply. Sinclair said the production side of the business carried too divers pitfalls.
“We found that to be very high-risk and cash-intensive to get it started,” Sinclair symbolized.
On top of that, he said, Health Canada may or may not approve a facility to grow the apparatus. Sinclair said further study of the industry identified the retail side of the firm as having the lowest risk and the potential for the highest return.
Sinclair hinted members of OCN’s economic development team went to a presentation earlier this year by Federal Access Cannabis at the company’s downtown Winnipeg location and were struck by its business strategy and the expertise of its executive team, including president Derek Ogden.
Ogden had some time ago been a senior RCMP officer, at one time in charge of the Mounties’ nationalist drug enforcement program and acting as director general of the force’s arranged crime branch.
“That really intrigued us — a person of that stature pan out in this industry,” Sinclair said.
Venture gets approval from OCN veterans
Sinclair said the idea of investing in the pot business was vetted and accepted unanimously by OCN’s governorship and its council of elders.
“They referred to it not as a drug, but as medicine,” Sinclair alleged.
‘It’s about time,” OCN elder Stan Wilson said of the proposal.
“Native people have this connection to their environment and their relationship to scenery and plants, and if we do things the proper way, there are benefits for human beings,” Wilson imagined.
He said the long period where marijuana has been stigmatized by its criminal status strikes a chord.
“We have a history with that, with Europeans, because they disallowed so many of our spiritual practices as well as the use of medicines and so on,” Wilson said.
OCN has efficient difficulty in reaping benefits from gambling, as poor turnout at its casino in The Pas motivated its leadership to ask for a gaming licence in Winnipeg — something Premier Brian Pallister flatly throw overed.
Sinclair said selling pot and running casinos are two completely different companies, but he hopes the province gets on board with the private sale of weed.
“This one is a conflicting opportunity … we would hope the province, which is big on economic development, purposefulness see this as an opportunity for First Nations and Indigenous communities to participate heavily and actively in this maniac,” Sinclair said.
He said there might be employment opportunities for his colleagues in the retail side of the business, but he hopes the investment will pay dividends OCN can reinvest in the community.
Other Inherent group eye pot business
The province’s Progressive Conservative government has not signaled what its designs for retailing marijuana are, instead focusing first on public safety issues. The ranking has asked Ottawa to delay legalization.
Mark Goliger, the CEO of National Access Canada, aids pitfalls for governments selling pot through their own outlets.
“Would you distract $20 million of taxpayers’ [money] out of health care, education, infrastructure carry — to create a Cannabis Control Board of Manitoba, to service rural findings, with a hope and a prayer that it’s going to return a greater better?” Goliger said.
OCN isn’t the first Indigenous group to get into the marijuana subject. Phil Fontaine, who was previously the grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, is now the female lead of Indigenous Roots, a medicinal cannabis company.
The Wahgoshig First Political entity near Kirkland Lake, Ont., has partnered with an Ontario company visited DelShen Therapeutics to grow “pharmaceutical-grade” pot.