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Shxwhá:y Village, B.C. sign licensing deal for cannabis retail, production near Chilliwack

Shxwhá:y Chief Robert Gladstone calls cannabis agreement ‘reconciliation in action’
Chief Robert Gladstone of Shxwha:y Village at a federal flood infrastructure funding announcement April 24, 2019. (Jenna Hauck/Chilliwack Progress file)

Shxwhá:y Village and the provincial government have entered into a government-to-government agreement that will allow cannabis production and retail on First Nations land near Chilliwack.

It is the sixth agreement of its kind in B.C. and it’s been in the works for almost three years.

“Shxwhá:y Village and B.C. have diligently worked in partnership to reach an agreement that supports both governments in meeting our cannabis objectives,” said Mike Farnworth, minister of public safety and Solicitor General, in a release. “Together, we’re implementing a path forward that supports a safe and strong cannabis sector.”

Shxwhá:y Chief Robert Gladstone is calling the deal “reconciliation in action.”

Since the advent of recreational cannabis legalization in 2018, local First Nations leaders have been trying to find a way to participate in the emerging economy, Gladstone told The Progress in 2019.

Gladstone said they set a goal to “harmonize” their interests in the process, to work together on equal footing.

“We had some tough discussions and finalizing this agreement took the better part of three years, but I am proud we signed an agreement that sets a strong foundation for ongoing government-to-government collaboration,” said Chief Gladstone. “This is reconciliation in action. However, reconciliation has no end. The work continues through the implementation of this agreement.”

Gladstone credited support from his community, officials at the BC Cannabis Secretariat and the negotiating team at All Nations.

They had decided to apply for a Section 119 licensing agreement under the Cannabis Control and Licensing Agreement Act, which is required to legally distribute cannabis from retail stores on Indigenous land by entering into agreements directly with First Nations.

The Shxwha:y application used the Williams Lake vision as their model, on the heels of opening on-reserve cannabis retail stores under the laws of their nation at first, enacting cannabis laws through land codes.

The local All Nations dispensaries are on Shxwhá:y Village (Skway First Nation) and Kwaw-kawapilt First Nation land. Those models differed from the route chosen by the owners of the first fully licensed cannabis store on Indigenous land, which is The Kure, on the Skwah First Nation land.

When the cannabis stores and production facility opened on reserve land near Chilliwack, it created jobs putting at least 100 people to work, the chief said.

“It has changed the standard of living for many in our village, going from abject poverty to a level closer to the middle class,” Gladstone said in 2019. “So this is a success story.”

The deal allows for some variation from the provincial framework for Shxwhá:y’s cannabis operations, while maintaining alignment with federal and provincial cannabis laws. It allows support for Shxwhá:y interests in operating cannabis production and retail ventures, the release added, and it affirms each government’s shared policy objectives relating to public health and safety, social responsibility, protecting young people, deterring illicit activity, and supporting socio-economic development.

RELATED: First Nations chiefs seeking a role in B.C. cannabis economy

RELATED: Unique approach to cannabis retail

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Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering city hall, Indigenous, business, and climate change stories.
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