About four years ago, Burns Lake resident and former Burns Lake Band Chief Wesley Sam thought First Nations patients from across Canada could benefit from increased access to medicinal marijuana.
Sam envisioned that increased access to medicinal marijuana could help First Nations struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder caused by residential schools, as well as various addiction issues.
As the idea developed, Sam worked with Marc Storms, Chief Executive Officer of GMG Consulting, to advance the concept, and then partnered with Phil Fontaine, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, to create the company ‘Indigenous Roots.’
The newly created medicinal cannabis company plans to work cooperatively with First Nations towards building and operating licensed facilities and providing medical cannabis to First Nations patients.
“Indigenous Roots creates the foundation for a national platform through which cannabis medication can be provided to millions of underserved patients living both on and off First Nations reserves across the country and abroad,” explained Sam.
In order to make that happen, Indigenous Roots has partnered with an existing licensed producer – Cronos Group.
“Partnering with an existing licensed producer creates an expedited path for First Nations to invest, operate, and participate in the economic opportunities related to the emerging cannabis industry,” said Sam.
This partnership will commence with the construction of a flagship facility for Indigenous Roots. Cronos has committed to providing the land, license, IP, and engineering expertise related to the new facility; in exchange, Cronos will share in the operating profits on a 50/50 basis.
Although Sam wouldn’t disclose the proposed location of the facility, he did confirm that it will be built somewhere in B.C. and that it will not be located in the Burns Lake area.
“It’s really important to us that we consult with the local First Nations first [before we announce the location],” he said.
The new facility is expected to be built in the spring of 2017.
The next step will be for Indigenous Roots to source and license additional facilities on First Nations reserves, ultimately pursuing an international presence.
When asked if recreational marijuana would also be explored, Sam said it’s a possibility.
“It’s too early to speculate, but that’s definitely a future possibility, depending on what the federal government of Canada decides,” said Sam. “The opportunities are being created as we go; our focus now is medical cannabis for First Nations people.”
Sam added that the newly formed entity will commit to remaining a First Nations owned and operated company.