A B.C. First Nation is asserting its right to self-government with the development of a retail cannabis store that will feature a drive-thru.
Located a 10-minute drive south of Quesnel, Lhtako Dene Nation is nearing the completion of the retail store housed in refurbished shipping containers between the community’s gas bar and administration office on Arbutus Road.
“People ask where we got our permit from and I said I wrote it,” Chief Clifford Lebrun said with a laugh before stating his nation has their own land laws, codes and regulations.
The B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch says the province’s cannabis retail licensing requirements apply across British Columbia, including on reserve and treaty settlement lands.
Lebrun said the nation, however, has not applied to the province for a non-medical cannabis retail store license pointing to the nation’s cannabis law that is enacted through their land code.
Lhtako Dene Grass Station won’t be the first Indigenous cannabis retail store to open on First Nations land without having received a license from the BC Liquor Distribution Branch.
The Williams Lake First Nation opened Indigenous Bloom on reserve land in accordance with band law in March 2019 — a month prior to the Skwah First Nation reserve near Chilliwack being granted a license for The Kure Cannabis Society which would become the first provincially licensed cannabis retail store in B.C. on Indigenous land.
“Even those that don’t really use it, they see the benefit of it being in our community,” Lebrun said adding the cannabis store will provide an additional revenue stream for Lhtako Dene Nation where housing is the main priority.
An opening has yet to be determined for Lhtako Dene Grass Station.
It’s anticipated to provide up to six jobs, and primarily sell products relating to the medicinal benefits of cannabis.
“It’s a naturally occurring medicine,” Lebrun said, noting he has used cannabis himself for medicinal purposes.
“It doesn’t have that stigma that it used to before although some people just don’t like it.”