The marijuana industry in Canada is expanding at an exponential rate. In turn, First Nations are striving to capitalize on emerging economic opportunities.
In early December, First Nation leaders made their initial stand on marijuana control at the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) conference. It was unanimous amongst leaders that they hold right to manage the distribution of legal marijuana within their communities.
Phil Fontaine, an Indigenous politician turned marijuana executive has spent the last year traveling and talking to First Nations communities. He spoke on jobs and the wealth of training opportunities that could come with a legal marijuana industry. Fontaine says,
“Everywhere we’ve been, it’s been the same reaction, interest, excitement. First Nations are speaking about possibilities and potential.”
Fontaine goes on to say that marijuana businesses represent “tremendous potential” for First Nations communities. Due to the infancy of the industry, First Nations have the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of an emerging market. Fontaine states,
“This is a unique opportunity. This sector is different than any other the Indigenous community has experienced. Everyone is starting off at the same point,”
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Fontaine is the CEO of Indigenous Roots, a medical marijuana company operated by and for First Nations across Canada. The company is partnered with Cronos Group, a Health Canada medical-marijuana grower. Indigenous Roots has vowed to split its profits evenly with First Nations and Cronos Group once operational.
Even with recreational weed moving towards legalization, Indigenous Roots will be focusing on supplying medicinal marijuana to their communities. Fontaine says,
“We want to make sure that this particular service is made available to our communities in every part of the country,”
The goal is to build an Indigenous Roots growing facility beside an existing Cronos facility in Armstrong B.C. Cronos workers will train indigenous workers to run the operations. The new facility will create between 30 and 50 jobs. This will include opportunities in marketing, sales, and accounting. Fontaine concludes with,
“Long term and medium term, this is meant to be an Indigenous-operated company. Our commitment is to make sure that any knowledge that we have or we continue to gain, that we’re sharing and we’re always there to support.”