Ex-AFN leader teams with grower to bring medical marijuana to First Nations

Phil Fontaine, the former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, has teamed up with one of the first licensed cannabis growers to bring medical marijuana to First Nations.

Indigenous Roots is a joint venture between Mr. Fontaine and Cronos Group, which operates the Peace Naturals Project in Ontario and In The Zone Produce Ltd. in British Columbia.

It would work co-operatively with First Nations to supply people living on and off reserves with the drug.

In a news release issued Tuesday morning, the partners say the idea is to allow First Nations to invest, operate and participate in the economic opportunities related to the emerging cannabis industry.

With a flagship operation at the B.C. location, they say they intend to consult and work co-operatively with First Nations that are interested in participating, and would commit to remaining a First-Nations-owned-and-operated company providing employment and economic opportunities to First Nations people.

Cronos would provide the land, license, intellectual property and engineering expertise and would share in the operating profits on a 50/50 basis. The plan is to expand by creating new facilities on reserves.

“We are committed to working with First Nations agencies in every region towards developing a solution that provides our patients access to insured cannabis medication,” said Mr. Fontaine in the release.

In the same release, Mike Gorenstein, chief executive officer of Cronos, said his company has tremendous respect for First Nations “and this relationship extends our vision of providing compassionate care. Indigenous Roots will contribute to a shared goal of bringing top quality medicine to patients in need.”

The Liberal government has promised to table legislation to legalize marijuana for recreational use in the spring of 2017, although it remains unclear when the drug will be taken off the prohibited list for the first time since 1923.