Kahnawake votes on whether it should legalize cannabis sales
Residents of the Kahnawake Mohawk Reserve are voting over the next five days to determine if cannabis should be legally sold on their territory.
Despite cannabis becoming legal nationwide on Oct. 17, marijuana remains illegal in Kahnawake – though some are selling it regardless.
Garrett Cree runs a dispensary on Kahnawake, south of Montreal, where – unlike the government-run stories in the province – you can smell the product inside.
“I'm providing the medicine,” he said. “If you choose to use it recreationally, that's on you,” adding that there are other benefits that set it apart from the SQDC. “They can talk to me, get good medicine, and they don't have to wait in four-hour lines in the freezing cold.”
The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake considers dispensaries to be illegal – but some disagree.
“This is my right to do this, this is my land,” said Kwetio Goodleaf, who opened a dispensary last June.
Local police have shut her business down three times, but the Crown never charged Goodleaf with any offences. She reopened three days ago.
“Everything is organic, everything is monitored, IDs are required. There are certain guidelines we go by. We don't sell marijuana to children,” she said.
Some, though said they worry it will lead to social problems. Chief Lloyd Phillips believes legal weed won't eliminate the black market.
“It will not eliminate it and some may even argue it may expand on it because people will be less afraid to selling illegal cannabis,” he said.
Chief Rhonda Kirby, though, said cannabis could bring significant sums of money to the reserve.
“There are a lot of things that are not funded in our community, so we're constantly looking at ways and what we can do for our community, for economic development,” she said.
If the people overwhelmingly say they don't want pot sales, Goodleaf said she’ll listen, though she doubts they'll want her shut down.
“There's been marijuana in all the neighbouring communities well before I was alive,” she said.
Cree calls the long lineups outside Montreal’s new cannabis shops a “public safety hazard.”
“To have people waiting in the freezing cold so long to get some medicine. If they allow other stores to open where they can get a Health Canada certified product, I don't see the problem,” he said.
The results of the consultation are not binding, but the band council says it wants to know where people stand.