Snuneymuxw First Nation opens its first cannabis retail business in Nanaimo

Snuneymuxw Chief Mike Wyse cuts the ribbon to open Coast Salish Canna on MacMillan Road on Feb. 25. Chris Bush photo / News Bulletin

Snuneymuxw First Nation opened its first cannabis retail outlet last week and still has plans to add more stores and a production and distribution network.

Coast Salish Canna on MacMillan Road opened its doors with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday, Feb. 25. The store opening is the beginning of the First Nation’s newest economic development venture.

“Today is a very proud day for Snuneymuxw and our partners to unveil and bring this forward,” said Snuneymuxw Chief Mike Wyse.

The First Nation partnered with Terry Brown and Jason Guild of Encompass Capital three years ago to get the new business up and running.

“This has been a long time coming for us and an excellent and rewarding partnership we’ve entered into,” Guild said.

The First Nation is also opening a store at Sealand Market on Stewart Avenue and will build a grow operation on its reserve lands in Cedar to supply up to eight retail outlets on the Island.

“It’s a game-changer for the nation,” Guild said. “It puts them in the right position to be able to supply and put a micro grow here and literally supply your own stores.”

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The B.C. Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, Brown said, currently has few Indigenous growers and operating companies in the province.

“There are some that are Indigenous-associated, but to become a true Indigenous grower on the Island is very special,” Brown said.

Snuneymuxw First Nation’s cannabis retail and supply agreement with the provincial government under Section 119 of the Cannabis Control Licensing Act is the second of its kind in B.C. The agreement is seen as another way for First Nations to provide employment for people in their communities and another enterprise in ongoing efforts to achieve economic self-sufficiency, according to a press release from the province last year.

“For our community to be involved in this business, it’s a big step for us and we’re very excited,” Wyse said. “We’ve come into this looking at other opportunities, as well as this.”

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