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Alderville dispensary owner says province should stay out of his business

By Valerie MacDonald, Northumberland Today

Alderville First Nation's Rob Stevenson says the Provincial Government does not have the right to close down Indigenous marijuana dispensaries like his, Medicine Wheel Healing Centre, that recently opened on County Road 45 in Roseneath.File pic VALERIE MACDONAL Northumberand Today

Alderville First Nation's Rob Stevenson says the Provincial Government does not have the right to close down Indigenous marijuana dispensaries like his, Medicine Wheel Healing Centre, that recently opened on County Road 45 in Roseneath.File pic VALERIE MACDONAL Northumberand Today

ALDERVILLE -- Alderville First Nation's Rob Stevenson had just opened his marijuana dispensary, Medicine Wheel Natural Healing, on County Road 45 in Roseneath when the provincial government announced its plans to close dispensaries in Ontario and set up 150 government-run stores to sell cannabis.

This is to happen within the next year.

Stevenson, a member of the Anishinaabe of the Bear Clan who lives in Alderville First Nation, said that the Ontario government doesn't have that right when dealing with Indigenous people.

"It is not my position to tell the Canadian or Ontario government how to run the cannabis industry in their own jurisdictions. That is a matter for those governments and their people to determine through their own systems," Stevenson said.

"However, Indigenous people, especially those living on reserves, operate in a different jurisdiction than the province. Our rights are protected and enshrined in the Canadian constitution, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, and ultimately by our own systems of governance and decision-making which vary between Indigenous communities and nations.

"The bottom line is that the Province of Ontario has no jurisdiction on Native lands, and thus no right to act against the Indigenous cannabis dispensaries on our territories. Cannabis is a healing plant that is not dangerous to humans and one that Indigenous people embrace as an alternative to the drugs pushed by big pharm."

Many of the hundreds of people who came in to check out Medicine Wheel Natural Healing at its official opening late last month were there to ask questions about various strains of, and types of, marijuana products, as well as their health benefits and value as pain relievers.

"To put an end to colonization and to enable true reconciliation, we as Indigenous peoples must decide through our own decision-making structures what is in our own best interests and how we will fulfill our responsibilities," Stevenson said. "We have a right to participate in the cannabis industry on our own lands like any other people, and we intend to exercise those rights to provide for ourselves and to help others.

"If Canada or the province has an issue with that, then this is something they need to peacefully and respectfully raise and discuss with our political leadership."

Stevenson stressed that, to date, both the Ontario government and the federal government have had "zero consultation with Indigenous people as they have introduced their cannabis legislation.

"It's 2017, and governments should know better. They have not consulted with our leadership, our people, or our businesses and entrepreneurs who are leading the indigenous cannabis industry," he said. "They should not think that they can unilaterally impose their system on us. Times have changed, and as Indigenous people we are going to run this industry on our own terms and for the benefit of our people and the patients we serve. "

vmacdonald@postmedia.com

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