FORSETH – Why is Indigenous cannabis subsidized against the private sector?
I NOTED THREE THINGS in news stories, in recent days, regarding our Indigenous neighbours, and they had me asking questions that I think at least some of us should be considering.
The first thing was a Global News story from Friday:
First Nations people continue to be disproportionately and devastatingly affected by B.C.’s toxic drug crisis, with 2022 being the deadliest year on record, according to the First Nations Health Authority.
Data released by the FNHA on Friday shows that First Nations people died at 5.9 times the rate of other residents last year, with 373 toxic drug-poisoning deaths in total. It’s a 6.3-per-cent increase from 2021.
The second was a April 20 media announcement from the Assembly of First Nations, and the First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC), which in part stated:
First Nations have inherent rights and jurisdiction to govern the cultivation, processing, sale, and consumption of cannabis in their territories. Despite persistent advocacy, First Nations’ distinct rights and unique needs were ignored by colonial governments during the legalization of cannabis.
Five years later, Canada’s legislative framework for cannabis still does not provide appropriate avenues for coordination between jurisdictions or appropriate fiscal relationships that reflect the recognition of First Nations’ jurisdiction over cannabis.
First Nations businesses also continue to be challenged by excessive taxation and onerous regulations.
Then today, and perhaps deliberately buried on the weekend so as to have the fewest eyes possible see it, was the third item … a media release from Mike Farnworth’s Public Safety and Solicitor General’s Ministry, which began by stating:
The Province is providing additional funding to the B.C. Indigenous Cannabis Business Fund (ICBF) to support Indigenous participation in the regulated cannabis industry.
Launched in December 2022, the ICBF supports First Nations communities and Indigenous businesses in British Columbia that want to increase their participation in, or join, the regulated cannabis industry.
Nearly $2.3 million will be provided to the New Relationship Trust, which is responsible for administering the program, to increase the number of Indigenous businesses that could receive support through the fund. The new, one-time funding is in addition to the original joint contribution of as much as $7.5 million by the Province and the federal government over three years.
Now, let me begin by saying there are thousands upon thousands of British Columbians who are able to enjoy recreational use of cannabis with absolutely no repercussions to their everyday life.
For some, however, it leads to a lack of ambition, motivation, and in some instances it’s a pathway to harder drugs and addiction – and sadly, as the Global News story stated, death from overdoses and a poisoned drug supply.
Which leads me to the media release from the Assembly of First Nations, which to me is like the pot calling the kettle black. The release states, ‘First Nations have inherent rights and jurisdiction to govern the cultivation, processing, sale, and consumption of cannabis in their territories’.
Not only are they satisfied to grow, and sell, cannabis, to be consumed by the public, including their own people (note the statements regarding addictions and deaths), they want to have their own ‘distinct rights and unique needs’ apply – which I take to mean different than the rules, regulations, and standards applied to everyone else in the cannabis industry.
In other words, the First Nations Leadership Council isn’t content to have the same opportunities as everyone else, they want less taxation … less regulation … and special/ unique accommodations.
The FNLC is calling for the issues of jurisdiction, economic development, taxation, revenue sharing, and health and safety for First Nations to be meaningfully addressed in amendments to the Cannabis Act in partnership with First Nations.
But why should they pay less taxes, have less regulation, and enjoy privileges unique to them, that others in the industry are not privy to?
On top of that, monies from the taxpayers of B.C. — including the taxes paid by non-Indigenous owned cannabis operators (to the tune of $9.8 million) — are being used to expand their penetration in the marketplace.
Basically, taxes from non-Indigenous owned cannabis operators, will be used so that Indigenous owned businesses can go into direct competition against them. What kind of sense is that?
Earlier today, on both Facebook and Twitter, I asked this question:
The B.C. government is giving even more money to the BC Indigenous Cannabis Business Fund, to support their participation in the regulated cannabis industry.
My question would be, WHY is the government giving ANY taxpayer money at all, when they’re in direct competition with private sector businesses?
Can’t they stand on their own two feet?
No one responded to my question, and it’s not the first time this has happened when I have questioned things of a similar nature.
Are people afraid to speak up, and questions things of this nature, for fear of repercussions?
Sadly, I think they are … and that, simply, is not right.
Alan Forseth is a Kamloops resident. For 40 years he has been active, in a number of capacities, in local, provincial and federal politics, including running as a candidate for the BC Reform Party in the 1996 provincial election. He more recently was involved in the BC Liberal leadership campaign.
OMG I am glad to see that people are finally having the courage to speak out about this nonsense. The taxpayer is supplying these “exceptions”, funding and enabling. I am tired of paying for folks to be able to have special rules above what everyone else has to follow. Work hard and stop asking for handouts just like most of the taxpayers whose money is being poured into a bottomless pit with no end in sight.
Most of us agree with you plus I would hope to think ,the native community.
Right, Allen! I speak from painful experience. For 25 years I toked my head off and my life away. For every one of those years I was lost in a cannabis haze of hatred, blaming others (anybody handy), pulling of my hair and gnashing my teeth. Now I am over 30 years clean and sober and I love it! You could not get street drugs into my body if you sat on me! I wish everyone could experience the same. As for the First Nations bailiwick to speak with forked tongue while they encourage their people to keep themselves toxic, get back on the Red Road, Brother. You know where that starts. I want to respect you and you deserve my respect. Your silliness limits the respect I offer.
Alan…I concur with this op-piece of yours 100% and I applaud your courage to write it. Give me reasoned leadership and at this point in time, I would vote conservative in a heartbeat. Too many “woke” things are getting under my skin as of late.