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CAN (ON): Indigenous cannabis entrepreneurs choose between government red tape and reserve ‘red markets’

On Alderville First Nation – a reserve south of Roseneath, Ont. – a dozen cannabis stores make up a short stretch of Highway 45, in what’s been dubbed “The Green Mile.” Since Canada legalized cannabis in 2018, the sector’s annual GDP sits at about $10.8-billion, sustaining tens of thousands of jobs across the country. While cannabis is federally regulated, the oversight of wholesale distribution and retail is in the hands of provinces and territories.

The dispensaries on The Green Mile mostly fall outside that sector. They’re part of a different market – one that is, surprisingly, not operating under provincial dispensary laws. It’s what Indigenous industry experts call “the red market.”

“[Technically] we’re not legal to the Canadian government, and we’re not licensed through the province,” says Robert Stevenson, an Anishinaabe man of the Bear Clan and owner of Medicine Wheel, the first dispensary opened on The Green Mile.

Indigenous people and First Nations across the country are sometimes sidestepping the formal processes for cannabis operations and distributing their own product on the red market instead. Stevenson says it’s a reclamation of land rights laid out in the Canadian Constitution and Article 24 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. “The industry has really blossomed over the last six or seven years.”

Read more at theglobeandmail.com

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