The chief of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg Algonquin community is warning the pending legalization of marijuana could result in a “grey market” for the drug unless the band is given control over tax revenues.
Speaking to CBC’s Ottawa Morning, Jean Guy Whiteduck said unless proper mechanisms are put in place to ensure legal marijuana sales are properly monitored, illegal trade will flourish in Kitigan Zibi.
“Our region is known for growing marijuana, and the illegal stuff is being sold [in our community].”
Kitigan Zibi, located near Manwaki, Que., has seen a similar problem with untaxed tobacco. With limited resources for policing, it has been difficult to regulate and police tobacco sales, Whiteduck said.
“We saw a number of tobacco shops springing up … and there is no control over it.”
Strain on police
Kitigan Zibi’s police force is staffed by only 10 officers, and policing the legal cannabis trade will stretch their resources even further, Whiteduck said.
“Cannabis is going to be even more difficult.”
In December the federal government reached an agreement with the provinces and territories giving them 75 cents on every dollar of revenue for the first two years after legalization.
On Thursday a leading voice on First Nations finances called on the federal government to surrender taxation powers over cannabis to band councils, arguing Indigenous peoples should get a cut of the billions of dollars in revenue expected from legalization.
Manny Jules, chief commissioner of the First Nations Tax Commission, urged senators to amend Bill C-45, the government’s pot bill, to hand taxing authority to First Nations governments so they can impose their own levy on cannabis manufactured and sold on reserves.
‘Forgotten once again’
Whiteduck also wants the federal government to give Indigenous communities the ability to tax legal marijuana.
“The only way to entice First Nations is to say, ‘OK you have taxation control. You control it, you set up the laws and the bylaws in your community and control it from there.'”
Whiteduck said so far, the federal government’s approach to the issue has been disappointing.
“We seem to be forgotten once again. We talk about a nation-to-nation relationship — we should be at the table to discuss this.”
Whiteduck said he’s not entirely in favour of the legalization of marijuana, and said there are many in his community feeling the same way, especially when it comes to young people accessing illegal marijuana. Tax revenue could not only fund policing, but local drug education programs as well, Whiteduck said.
“We’re caught with the reality [that] the federal government has chosen to [legalize marijuana]. Now we have to find some mechanisms to deal with it effectively.”