ONEIDA – Illegal pot shops popping up in Indigenous communities, including at least two in Southwestern Ontario, pose a new challenge to police ahead of the government’s plan to start selling recreational marijuana, one industry watcher says.
Police forces have been engaged in a whack-a-mole style battle with cannabis dispensaries that have proliferated in cities across the country ahead of the federal government’s plan to legalize the drug’s recreational use in July.
While police raids have largely targeted city dispensaries, those on Indigenous communities appear to be flying under the radar as more of the unsanctioned businesses set up shop.
“There’s no mechanism to stop them from popping up,” said Jenna Valleriani, a post-doctoral student at the University of British Columbia and member of Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
“The police could theoretically go in and try to close them, but then it opens up this whole other conversation about whether or not . . . they’re allowed to be pursuing enforcement on (Indigenous) land.”
Indigenous leaders say they should be given the right to regulate the sale and distribution of marijuana in their communities. But private retailers, including existing dispensary operators, have been shut out in Ontario, where pot sales will be restricted to the Ontario Cannabis Store and through its affiliated online service.