A dispute between the province’s Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority and Long Plain First Nation surrounding the sale of cannabis will be settled in court.
Manitoba Justice announced last week that the attorney general will be seeking an interim and permanent injunction against the First Nation to stop selling pot out of an unlicensed dispensary on its Keeshkemaquah Urban Reserve land near Portage la Prairie.
Following multiple requests to stop these practices, the LGCA suspended its cannabis retail agreement with Long Plain in May and fully terminated the agreement in early June.
The province says one set of rules need to apply to everyone – and those rules are clearly stated in the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Act – regardless of whether or not a store is located on First Nations land. This act requires all cannabis stores in Manitoba to be licensed by the LGCA, and the cannabis these stores sell must be purchased from Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries, the province’s exclusive wholesaler. MLL can only purchase its cannabis from Health Canada.
“The attorney general takes this step in the public interest, given his unique role and function,” states a release from the province. “To protect public health and safety, to protect the integrity of the established legal framework for cannabis sales in Manitoba, and to protect the interests of all Manitoba cannabis retailers, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, that participate in the legal system and ensure consistent access to controlled and authorized cannabis products from licensed producers.”
Long Plain First Nation leadership previously released a statement in regards to the province’s concerns, saying that Canada failed to consider Indigenous interests when legalizing cannabis.
In response, Long Plain drafted its own legislation – The Cannabis Law – which leadership says is an expression of the First Nation’s inherent right to self-determination, which includes the right to exclusively govern cannabis-related activities on-reserve. Long Plain also says its cannabis regulations meet or exceed health and safety standards established under federal and provincial laws.
The province says the attorney general’s public interest action comes despite extending multiple opportunities to Long Plain First Nation to resume participating in the licensed legal framework.
Long Plain first established a licensed META Cannabis Supply Co. store on the Keeshkeemaquah urban reserve in late 2018, just after legalization. According to a spokesperson with the province’s cannabis authority, the store closed on March 29, 2020, and has not been licensed since.
Indigenous Bloom currently operates a dispensary at the former META location – the lone dispensary affiliated with the company outside of British Columbia. According to its website, Indigenous Bloom is a co-operative that forms long-term partnerships with First Nation and Indigenous peoples on Indigenous lands for the production and dispensing of medicinal hemp and cannabis products.