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Profit or Problem: investing in pot


Opaskwayak Cree Nation (OCN) made news headlines last week when it was announced that the northern reservation purchased a stake in the pot business for the large sum of $3 million.
Now holding approximately 10 percent share in National Access Cannabis, OCN Chief Christian Sinclair told the CBC that the investment represents a shift in thinking. Where marijuana was once part of the war on drugs, the plant will be now be part of the war on poverty in his community.
National Access Cannabis currently operates 10 medical marijuana clinics in cities across Canada and does not produce it’s own pot. The company instead relies on federally licensed producers for its supply, something the OCN found too “high-risk and cash-intensive” to get in.
The band’s elders have approved of the move, thinking of pot not as a drug but as medicine their ancestors might have used.
"Indigenous people have this connection to their environment and their relationship to nature and plants, and if we do things the proper way, there are benefits for human beings," Wilson told the CBC.
OCN isn't the first Indigenous group to get into the marijuana business. The Wahgoshig First Nation near Kirkland Lake, Ont., has partnered with an Ontario company named DelShen Therapeutics to grow pharmaceutical-grade pot. But, to make the investment profitable, OCN and other investors in like companies are counting on provincial governments allowing the private sector to sell pot to customers, instead of setting up provincially run distributor, a decision the Manitoba government has not made yet.
In fact, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has actually asked Ottawa to delay legalization, focusing on the public safety issues it may bring. Still, Pallister told CBC News he is in favour of OCNs decision to get into the pot business.
"Anytime I see investments in enterprise by Manitobans I am encouraged by that," he said. "OCN is a very forward-looking, well-led first nations community, so I wish them all the best in their investments."
In my opinion OCN has invested a lot of money into something that could pose a lot of risk if the provincial government does decide that public sector sales are the better way to go, similar to what is already happening with liquor across the province. This is something that at least one province, Ontario, is already toying with. They have announced that they are considering standalone cannabis stores which are essentially a subsidiary of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.
Either way, with just nine months before legalization, there is still no comprehensive plan in place both federally and provincially for how the sale of marijuana is going to be handled and, with states like Colorado shouting their warnings against legalization at our country, I know I am starting to get a little concerned about how this is all going to roll out. How about you?