First Nations Chief says Cannabis Dispensary just a ‘Glorified Drug Dealer’

Marijuana dispensary says it does between $5,000 and $10,000 in sales every day. First Nations Chief sees it just as a crime.

First its one step inside a trailer parked in a front yard. Then you get asked for identification proving you are over 19. Also, you get directed to sign up as a patient of First Nations Medicinal. But it’s alright to just be a “recreational patient.”

Once this is complete, you can purchase a sandwich bag full of marijuana from the dispensary on Wahnapitae First Nation, just north of Sudbury. In addition, candies, teas, honey and other edibles are all available.

Plus, the owners of the dispensary say they sell between $5,000 and $10,000 most days.

“As far as I’m concerned this is just a glorified dealer. Dealing in drugs,” says Wahnapitae First Nation Chief Ted Rocque.

The Dispensary Struggle

first nations medical marijuana dispensaries are fighting to stay open
Marijuana for sale at the First Nations Medicinal shop on Wahnapitae First Nation, just north of Sudbury. via CBC News

First Nations Chief Ted Rocque has been trying to get the dispensary shut down since it opened in September. But he hasn’t convinced the Anishnabek Police to intervene and no comment was made to CBC News.

“Members come and talk to me on a daily basis: ‘What is going on with this? When is this gentleman going to get shut down?'”

The owner of the dispensary Chadwick McGregor says United Nations declarations that Canada has endorsed gives him the right to sell pot.

“Kind of gives Indigenous people the right to barter, trade in any medicine that they see fit,” he says.

McGregor says he got into marijuana when he was recovering from an opiate addiction, started growing it himself and then decided to open a dispensary. Above all, McGregor says he put in a new business request to the First Nation but got no response. For that reason, he decided to open up without permission. He alleges that Chief Rocque’s opposition comes from the fact that a member of his family is aiming to open a second dispensary.

Rocque says it’s true his uncle is also looking to get into the marijuana business but says he thinks that shop should be shut down too.

Chief wanted it to be a community choice

First Nations chief says pot dispensary just a 'glorified drug dealer'
Ted Rocque is the chief of Wahanpitae First Nation and he has pushed for marijuana dispensaries to be shut down. via CBC News 

The chief says he asked McGregor to hold off on opening a dispensary until the community could decide if it welcomes this type of business. What regulations should be in place, such as where the store can be located and how the marijuana is sourced. Rocque says he is in the process of organizing a community meeting for the coming weeks.

Chief Rocque believes First Nations have the power to set their own laws regarding marijuana. However, it’s very grey right now about what the rules will be for selling pot on First Nations reserve once it is a legal product in Canada.

The Anishnabek Nation, which covers 40 First Nations across the province, declined to comment on this issue until after a meeting on marijuana policy is held in March.

McGregor says he does believe there should be some kind of regulation of marijuana sales on the First Nations reserve. Rather he has no plans to close up shop, even if he does get busted by the police.

“It’s always in the back of my mind and it’s always a worry. But I would just re-open again. I’m here to stay and I’m here to put up a fight,” McGregor says.