Today is a well-known annual check-point for cannabis activists, industry players and, it’s a festival for those who want to know what the buzz is with 4-20. While the origins of this annual cannabis celebration is disputed, one thing is clear, many people across the country are celebrating this green leafy plant, making April 20tha day of significance.
Let’s consider for a moment, a connecting historical conversation from the Indigenous perspective here in what is now referred to as Canada; right back to the early colonial expeditions that landed explorers on to the eastern shores that were seen as unfit and undesirable.
On this very same day — April 20 — in 1534, French explorerJacques Cartier set off from Saint-Malo with 2 ships and 61 men. Favoured by “good weather,” he crossed the Atlantic in 20 days.“I did not see one cart-load of earth,” it was “the land God gave to Cain.” On June 15, he steered “towards the south” and entered unexplored regions. He went along the west coast of Newfoundland, distributing French names, and reached what is now called Cabot Strait, but he did not perceive that it was a navigable channel and turned westward.
This being the “new world” for early settlers, it was seen as “terra nullius”, empty land that had no human lives, where the Indigenous were seen as savage and without a soul – it was a sign of how visiting colonizers would conduct themselves in subsequent centuries; all leading us to April 20th2019.
Today Canada’s legislative agenda and policies are fraught with an insidious racist narrative and modern foundation of colonial arrogance that still does not respect Indigenous Nationhood. All this to say that cannabis laws in Canada are not anywhere near built on mutual interest, considering the rights, jurisdiction and economic interests of First Nations who wish to exercise their inherent and treaty rights separate and autonomous from that of federalist influence.
Now that we have the historical context set out, I note that Indigenous Peoples have a 4-20 perspective on cannabis that deserves attention. Our laws, economic rights, trade practices, social perspectives, and responsibilities are virtually unrecognized by the federal government in this country; at least without struggle and assertion.
You see, all of these rights of Nationhood are founded in Sovereignty that has never been relinquished, given away, nor were we conquered by war. As a matter of fact, our warriors were, and continue to be, allies in wartime and peacekeeping duties. The point here is this – Canadians still benefit from the strength and defense obligations of First Nations as Nationhood partners.
When we look across the country, we see many hard-fought assertions to participate in Canada’s cannabis industry – but it’s not an easy, cut and dried task to unpack where First Nations stand in today’s industry. The mish–mash of views and approaches to First Nation jurisdictional issues are perceived by Canada is a result of the neglect of not only Canada and the province, but due to the political paralysis of some of our own First Nation leaders on the issue – but that another story for another day.
Without getting too far into the weeds – we know that there are three central concerns from Indigenous Peoples regarding Canada’s laws on cannabis:
First, respecting the Nationhood rights of Indigenous communities on cannabis means a formal recognition of First Nation industry interests.
Secondly, consultation laws that Canada is bound to, simply were not respected in the accelerated manner that the federal government advanced the legislative agenda.
Finally, Canada’s claims to reconciliation – at least from the economic perspective, are clearly of no significant consequence.
First Nations today that wish to assert their interests in this industry are faced with persecution and labelling of being a grey market, or as having ties with a black market. It is being suggested that what First Nations are developing, despite colonial incursion on their cannabis rights, is the Red Market.
Intrigue has been sparked by the determination in approach by Indigenous entrepreneurs, and the impact that First Nations who are not prepared to allow a colonial narrative to be perpetuated are having on the industry . You will also notice, if you look closely, that First Nation cannabis entrepreneurs who are succeeding, are well empowered with expertise, innovative ideas, investment capacity and are sought by non-Indigenous investors because of the edge that Indigenous Nationhood rightfully maintains. Taxation, law-making authority, land, and an Indigenous worldview goes a long way in an industry that is based on a product that is living, comes from the land, and requires organic intelligence.
First Nation cannabis is going to flourish – not because colonial laws dictate, but because First Nations are not going to be dictated to by-laws that did not initially consider Indigenous interest.
So on this annual commemoration of cannabis culture, remember that it was JacquesCartier’s failing as he set out on April 20, 1534 to find new lands to exploit, to not anticipate a People with pride, dignity, drive, determination, and ability.A People with all those necessary attributes in the business acumen that we are seeing in First Nation cannabis business leaders who are rightfully challenging Canada’s laws today.
Isadore Day, Wiindawtegowinini