The Traditional System of Cannabis Regulation


The Traditional System of Cannabis Regulation

Cannabis regulation raises a big issue, and that’s who really has the authority in our nations. From my research and opinion, it’s the traditional people, the ones that originally made the agreements. In the future we have to work something out as a people and a nation that we can all agree with. If Band Council upholds or promotes that decision — made outside of Indian Act systems — then their voice finally has some weight. Not because they are elected under the Indian Act, but because they are expressing the consensus of the people — decided in accordance with traditional norms.

Even in cases where the traditional system has been effectively destroyed by colonization, it can be rebuilt and utilized. We still have and understand the principles of this system. The traditional system worked by having all the families involved, and the senior elders of each family would appoint their Chiefs and then they all worked together for the common good.

When we as Indigenous nations began making treaties with the British Crown, we did so as independent nations with full and inherent rights. Indigenous military support for the Crown during the American Revolution and the War of 1812 was the decisive factor in the Crown remaining in what is today Canada, and in order to gain this military support, the Crown made peace and friendship treaties with Indigenous nations that remain in effect today.

Indigenous people never gave up our inherent rights to make medicine from or otherwise benefit from the cannabis plant on their own lands, and the nation-to-nation treaties made with the Crown — long before the existence of Canada — reflect this. The Constitution is the highest law of Canada, and it legally protects our rights. These rights include the right to consume and distribute cannabis. These are rights of our nations, from time immemorial.

Our economies and standards of living on reserve are equivalent to some of the worst in the world. Cannabis is an opportunity much like cigarettes. We need to do it ourselves. We need our own economy in our communities, and we need to run it ourselves. This is pretty much denied by the Indian Act, and we have to overcome it. We have to use the rights of our nations recognized by Section 35 and develop our local economy for ourselves. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 recognized our rights, it didn’t create them. These rights are further entrenched by Sections 25 and 35. Our rights come from being a nation, and nations have the right to make laws and govern their societies. The right for our people to do what they did with medicines was the right of that nation. We don’t have to prove anything to anyone. On the other hand, Canada has to prove to us how they acquired any rights here without discussing it with us first.

We are the only ones that can truly define what Aboriginal Rights are. It is our job to define what Section 35 means. Not a judge or lawyer whose whole life is having an opinion on this that or the other. Rights are not subject to the opinions of colonizers, because the opinions of colonizers tend to be self-serving. If we were to get opinions from the brown skinned people around the world, I bet they’d agree with us. It’s time to get rid of that “empty box” of Section 35 opinions. We’ll define our own rights and fight for them ourselves.

Our people have to figure this out themselves. We don’t need to include the government or Band Council in this. We have to work together and make it work for all of our people.