Province has jurisdiction over First Nation cannabis store: Sask. Justice Minister

The Muscowpetung First Nation plans to open a cannabis store to the general public Wednesday, south of Fort Qu’Appelle, but the provincial government said setting up shop without a licence is illegal.

Muscowpetung Chief Anthony Cappo and council passed their own cannabis act Monday.

The First Nation was not one of the communities approved for a recreational permit by the Saskatchewan government earlier this year.

However, the First Nation argues that they have a legal right to govern cannabis on reserve through the Indian Act and section 35 of Canada’s Constitution. This section affirms the treaty rights of Indigenous people.

Saskatchewan Justice Minister Don Morgan said while reserves do have powers of self-governance, regulating cannabis in Saskatchewan falls to the province.

“The federal government has given us responsibility for licensing and regulating cannabis retailers to the province. We have jurisdiction over the province, including on reserve. So it would be our position that somebody setting one up without a provincial license would not be legal – would not be authorized,” Morgan said.

“So I would urge them to stop going ahead with it. I haven’t heard anything aside from what’s been in the media on it, but our expectation is that everybody within the province should and will comply.”

Morgan added he is not worried about opening up a jurisdictional argument and encourages the Muscowpetung council to talk with the province about future permit opportunities.

In an open letter, Chief Cappo said council had been working on their cannabis act with elder and community support as a sovereign treaty nation. He adds  cannabis can be used to address issues associated with past trauma like residential school abuse.

“This medicine, when used properly and responsibly, will aid in rebuilding our Nations by not only improving the overall community health but also giving us the opportunity to provide employment for our members and revenues to inject into our already underfunded programs and services,” Cappo wrote.

A press conference was planned for Wednesday by the First Nation, but it was cancelled Tuesday afternoon. The First Nation was waiting for a response to a federal request to further discuss it’s jurisdiction over cannabis.

Global News has reached out to Muscowpetung council for response to Morgan’s comments, and is awaiting a response.

Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority Minister Gene Makowsky said that the SLGA only deals with permitted stores. This shop is now a matter for Justice.

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