Okanagan Indian Band issues first license under the new Cannabis Control Law

Tupa’s Joint, an Indigenous health and wellness store, held its grand opening in downtown Vernon Saturday, May 23, 2020. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)

Tupa’s Joint, an Indigenous health and wellness store, held its grand opening in downtown Vernon Saturday, May 23, 2020. It has since been raided twice by the RCMP. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)

Cory Brewer, owner of Timixw Wellness, was the first to receive a Cannabis Business License from the Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB). OKIB issued the license on Aug. 28, 2020 for both of Brewer’s Timixw Wellness dispensaries that are in the First Nations community just outside of Vernon, B.C.

Brewer is also the owner of Tupa’s Joint, which is an off-reserve dispensary in the City of Vernon. He is also working towards getting Tupa’s Joint the same recognition after it was raided twice by the province in June 2020.

Brewer says that the process of receiving the license for Timixw Wellness was actually pretty simple.

“We followed the band and supported in creating the law as well as the other dispensary owners who were involved, we were all involved in it,” he says.

In Oct. 2018, the federal government legalized non-medicinal cannabis and moved enforcement to the province.

The Community Safety Unit (CSU), a branch of the B.C. government tasked with applying the province’s cannabis laws and enforcing the Federal Cannabis Act left First Nations out of the law altogether.

First Nations say they were not consulted during the development of the law, leaving many communities to develop their own laws. OKIB began developing its own Cannabis Control Law in 2018 after realizing that First Nations were left out of the federal Cannabis Act which set enforceable measures for cannabis dispensaries operating within the community.

Brewer shares that OKIB’s Cannabis Control Law provides a sense of safety and trust in the community that will ensure the safety of all who access newly licensed establishments.

“The bylaw is not meant to shut people down, it’s meant to help the band members be 100-per-cent self-sufficient,” Brewer says, “I mean, we were not even included, so this way we are included and we’re taking the lead.”

For Brewer, it’s about making sure customers feel safe.

“It means that we provide a safe product and a clean environment, we are not an underground or anything, our customer base shows they really trust us. The most important is gaining the trust and safety which we have,” Brewer says.

In the future, Brewer says that he will continue to employ folks from the community and ensure that the products he provides to his consumers continue to benefit other sovereign nations. Creating a mutually beneficial relationship with First Nations across the country.

“We work with most of our own product, and other First Nations providers, and it’s good because we always know what’s going into it,” he says.

“Going forward we would like to see .125the Cannabis Control Law.375 pushed across B.C. just so it’s for First Nations and then we can build off of it.”

— By Kelsie Kilawna, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse, distributed via The Canadian Press.