Mi'kmaq First Nation wants to partner with Rebagliati to sell pot
A Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq community is already talking with entrepreneur Ross Rebagliati about opening a retail cannabis store.
“We’re looking at legacy becoming part of the Mi'kmaq nation world moving forward,” Rebagliati told CTV Atlantic on Wednesday.
This fall, on Oct. 17, it will be legal to buy and use non-medical cannabis in Canada, but the provincial government has said the only storefronts that will be able to sell it are its own NSLC locations.
But Rebagliati, a former Olympic snowboarder and cannabis entrepreneur, says his company, Legacy Brands, has an agreement with the Sipene’katik First Nation in Shubenacadie to set up its own cannabis growing operation and a storefront later this year.
“We're very proud to be working with the Mi'kmaq nations now on a model just like that.”
Millbrook First Nation is looking at the possibilities, including investing in production and looking at opening retail stores at the Millbrook Power Centre.
“We're hoping for retail hopefully within this year,” said Chief Bob Gloadeof Millbrook First Nation.“We're under construction now for our strip mall facility and we’ve identified an area that we want to be able to put a location in both Millbrook and Cole Harbour.”
Chief Gloade says those retail outlets would follow provincial and federal cannabis rules.
For its part, the provincial government released the following statement Thursday in response to questions about Mi'kmaq First Nations getting into the cannabis industry.
“We have said all along that our approach to legalization is through a public health lens. At this time, we are not considering a retail model outside of the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation,” government spokeswoman Sarah Gillis wrote in an e-mail.
That claim makes this case interesting, said constitutional law expert Wayne MacKay.
“I think one of the rather unique elements here is the province is claiming a monopoly position, so it's interesting that they're now challenging that.”
MacKay thinks it’s something will eventually be settled by the Supreme Court of Canada. He said other provinces will face similar scenarios.
“It’s something that the Assembly of First Nations has already looked at,” he told CTV Atlantic Thursday.
MacKay said one of the arguments against it could be that it’s not an Aboriginal right.
“They’ll put the burden on the Mi’kmaq to prove that this was part of their culture pre-European contact, which is a pretty tough thing to prove, I would think,” MacKay said.
Still, it’s a fight worth having, said retired Dalhousie law professor, because it’s an integral part of asserting themselves as a self-governing First Nation. He even has a preference for which side he’d argue.
“I’d much prefer to be on the First Nations side on this one,” said MacKay. “I’m kind of retired, so I’m available if they need somebody. I think they’ve got a good argument. To some extent, the burden should be on the Crown to say ‘why can’t they do this?’ They’re First Nations, It’s their product, if they are growing it or producing it, what right do we have to take it away and not provide any compensation as we’ve done so often in the past.”
The Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs says it recognizes the positive economic gains of the cannabis industry, and is “exploring options.”
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Heidi Petracek.