Fund launched in BC to assist First Nations interested in cannabis industry

BC Indigenous Cannabis Business Fund launched, creating new opportunities for First Nations in the cannabis industry.

The federal government and BC government are investing up to $7.5 million in a new BC Indigenous Cannabis Business Fund to help increase representation in the cannabis industry.

This Indigenous-led fund was announced today by Regional Chief Terry Teegee, BC Assembly of First Nations; the Task Group for the First Nations Summit; Jean-Yves Duclos, Federal Minister of Health; Patty Hajdu, Federal Minister of Indigenous Services; and Mike Farnworth, British Columbia Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

The goal of the BC Indigenous Cannabis Business Fund is to support First Nations communities and Indigenous businesses in British Columbia that want to take part in, or increase their participation in, the legal cannabis industry in the province. 

The fund will also support the development of information and planning workshops for First Nations communities and Indigenous entrepreneurs to learn more about the cannabis industry, regulations, business opportunities, and how to apply for funding. These supports are intended to help create jobs and economic opportunities for Indigenous businesses and First Nations.

The B.C. Indigenous Cannabis Business Fund will be administered by the New Relationship Trust and Aboriginal Financial Institutions in British Columbia. The Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia are investing up to $7.5 million over three years in the Fund. 

The BC government has been working to facilitate First Nations participation in the legal cannabis space in the province for several years now. In 2020, they announced $500,000 in funding in partnership with the federal government to assist one First Nation to transition to the legal market. 

While some Indigenous communities in BC have argued that federal and provincial cannabis rules do not apply on their lands, others say they are choosing to work with both the federal and provincial regulators to find a more sustainable path towards economic development and even reconciliation. 

Terry Teegee, Regional Chief of the BC Assembly of First Nations, says the group has been advocating for these changes for some time now, and is looking forward to future progress.  

“Developing economic opportunities through cannabis-related initiatives is a priority for many First Nations in British Columbia. BCAFN is pleased to partner with the B.C. Indigenous Cannabis Business Fund, providing much-needed capital and support for capacity building, community planning and decision-making.” 

“This fund is an example of the positive results of our efforts to ensure First Nation participation in the B.C. cannabis industry,” he continues. “At the same time, we urge further partnership among all levels of government to address outstanding issues regarding jurisdiction, and implement the economic component of reconciliation, which involves new fiscal relationships.”

Hugh Braker, a Political Executive with the First Nations Summit, says the new program could assist with efforts to adhere to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, or UNDRIP.

“Our partnership with the Provincial and Federal governments on this initiative demonstrates the value of meaningful collaboration. We also deeply appreciate the expertise and community connections that the Aboriginal Financial Institutions and the New Relationship Trust will bring to this work. We intend for this program to support the priorities of First Nations in relation to cannabis and look forward to how it will evolve as we work to align provincial and federal laws with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

BC is home to several First Nations-owned cannabis producers and retailers.

More information on the announcement can be found here.

Feature image of Unity Cannabis in Williams Lake, BC, owned and operated by Williams Lake First Nation.