Cannabis in bloom

Published on January 13, 2019 by David Wylie

Indigenous communities are fighting for their place in the cannabis industry


Chief Robert Gladstone has a personal connection with cannabis.

The Shxwhá:y Village chief is one of those behind the new Indigenous Bloom cannabis store on Okanagan Indian Band Land near Kelowna.

Gladstone told the oz. that cannabis is in line with his community’s values and that Indigenous Bloom has an emphasis on harm reduction.

Gladstone’s mom recently passed away from cancer. Cannabis eased her suffering when she wasn’t able to eat, he said. It also helped reduce the use of narcotics.

Gladstone credits cannabis with keeping his mom alive for a little extra time.

He said his grandmother was aware of the value of CBD.

“That showed me there was a history of medical use of cannabis in our community,” he said during an exclusive interview at Indigenous Bloom’s Central Okanagan location.

Cannabis has benefits in helping people heal from addiction. It also has an economic benefit for the community. First Nation communities with Indigenous Bloom locations, including locations near Chilliwack and Vernon, are already seeing good quality jobs.

   RelatedThe store’s first customer 

More stores are planned by Indigenous Bloom Corporation, including one in Williams Lake.

Cannabis sold at Indigenous Bloom is sourced from First Nations suppliers. Gladstone said it meets or exceeds standards under the Cannabis Act.

Gladstone said Indigenous Bloom is operating under their inherent right to self-determination and through land codes that allow them to create their own laws. The Kwaw-Kwaw-Apilt First Nation has written its own cannabis law to replace the Cannabis Act.

The stores don’t have provincial licenses.

He said they’ve been working with Bill Blair, federal Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, and with Mike Farnworth, B.C.’s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

“We want to work together in a way that’s respectful of all levels of government,” he said.

The company’s board of directors includes former West Bank First Nation chief Robert Louie.


Big national plans

There’s a lot of optimism in indigenous communities when it comes to cannabis.

First Nations politician turned marijuana executive Phil Fontaine travelled across Canada prior to legalization talking to First Nations about the emerging industry.

“Everywhere we’ve been, it’s been the same reaction, interest, excitement. First Nations are speaking about possibilities and potential. So it’s been very encouraging,” the former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations told The Globe and Mail.

“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.”

Fontaine has partnered with The Cronos Group in a venture called Indigenous Roots, bringing medical marijuana to First Nations communities.

BNN recently spoke with Michael Gorenstein, president and CEO of The Cronos Group, about the business.

Cronos has an Okanagan tie, with licensed cannabis producer Original BC. It’s located on 31 acres of land in the Okanagan. They’re behind the brands Cove and Spinach.