First Nations Raids: Six Nations and the Iroquois Face Dispensary Losses

Six Nations cannabis dispensary owner defiant after raids: ‘Stay out of our affairs’

Jeff Hawk said he was sitting in the lounge area of his dispensary chatting with friends early on Tuesday evening. Suddenly, several assault-rifle wielding Six Nations police officers burst in, ordering everyone to get on the ground.

First Nations raids are increasing across Canada and becoming problematic for indigenous business owners.

Hawk’s dispensary is called Green Health for 6. It was the second to be hit by a raid in Six Nations near Hamilton. Six Nations police seized about $20,000 in cash along with some of the cannabis sold in the dispensary. As a result, four people were charged with trafficking during the arrest. In addition, Hawk was charged with possession and trafficking marijuana. Hawk said police left behind shatter, edibles and half a pound of marijuana.

“I am very angered by a lot of things. how the Six Nations police dealt with it, how they rushed in so fast to raid me for doing something good.”

Dispensaries are operating in other First Nations in Ontario, including in Tyendinaga and Alderville. However, Six Nations is the only place that has been hit by raids.

Battle lines are drawn

First Nations raids on the Six Nations
Jeff Hawk inside his Green Health for 6 dispensary in December 2017. Hawk’s dispensary was raided on Tuesday, Jan. 9 2018. via CBC

Six Nations police hit Hawk’s dispensary mere hours after he issued a video and Facebook post announcing he will be releasing the results of an independent community survey on how the cannabis industry should be run in the community.

Hawk said he received more than 700 responses to the survey and 626 came from band members.

Also, he saw a connection between the raid and the survey, which the band council actively opposed.

“I think somebody is pushing their authority or somebody is trying to assert authority on the people. Somebody is blowing their horn and saying we are the power,” said Hawk.

Hawk said he doesn’t understand why Six Nations police are raiding a dispensary while crack houses in the community continue to operate.

Six Nations Police Chief Glenn Lickers said if Hawk reopens he will again be on the force’s “radar.” Lickers said the community has taken a zero-tolerance policy against drugs and marijuana remains illegal.

“There is no grey area for us,” said Lickers.

The history of First Nations raids

Frist Nations natives choice on marijuana
Seth LeFort inside his Mohawk Medicine dispensary in Six Nations which was raided on Nov. 16, 2017. via CBC

Also, many involved in the First Nation cannabis trade see the replay of the beginning stages of the tobacco trade. That turned into a battle over decades between the federal government and First Nations communities.

For three decades, Ottawa and provincial governments battled with First Nations over the trade and sale of untaxed tobacco. In addition, raids, protests, and a new law passed under the administration of Stephen Harper occurred that criminalized the untaxed tobacco trade.

Seth LeFort, from Mohawk Medicine, said the law, Bill C-10, essentially crushed the tobacco trade. It was originally started by traditional grassroots people but is now controlled by tobacco millionaires.

“The tobacco industry taught us how to do the cannabis industry,” he said.

“They did it because they didn’t want to be dependent on the government. They were looking for a way to be independent and to raise our nations back up to be our own countries again the way we were before.”

Laws should be set by the First Nations

Six Nations Chief Ava Hill’s said her band council is still researching its position on the cannabis legislation. She doesn’t believe Ontario or Ottawa has consulted enough with First Nations on cannabis legalization. For that reason, she doesn’t believe Ontario has any jurisdiction in her community.

A spokesperson for Ontario’s Attorney General, Yasir Naqvi, said in a statement that the province’s recently passed marijuana law applies on reserve. The statement said the province is open to negotiating agreements with First Nations on how to handle marijuana sales within the framework of the law.