When Clifton Nicholas opened the first cannabis dispensary in Kanehsatake four years ago, he did so intending to tap into a market with both medicinal and mental health properties.
“There are a lot of people struggling with illnesses, both addiction-related, other health issues like cancer, and so on,” he said. “My reasoning for starting in the cannabis industry was my own recovery from addiction.”
Since opening a first store with partners, Nicholas has moved on to operating his own shop, the Green Devil, a dispensary located along Route 344.
While the industry has seen its ups and downs, the Kanehsata’kehró:non said he is enthusiastic about the recent reviving of the Kanehsatake Cannabis Association (KCA), in which he is a member.
“There’s a need for unity and regulation in the industry,” expressed Nicholas. “We don’t need a free-for-all rush going on. It’s proven itself to be detrimental to the community and the community fibre.”
The cannabis industry in Kanesatake has been making headlines for the past few weeks.
First, due to a party held at The Green Room dispensary in mid-June, which gave rise to criticism both at the community and provincial level, followed by a murder outside the same store on July 1.
“Some actions need to be taken in order to start running the industry responsibly. We need something in place that’s accepted by the community,” stated KCA spokesperson Bradley Gabriel.
The recent events stirred concern amongst Kanehsata’kehró:non who began to demand collaboration and regulation implementation from storeowners.
“It’s about regulating an industry and not losing it like we did with our bingo and smoke shops in the early 90s,” said Gabriel. “It’s an opportunity as well to get the community to work together again.”
The recent events led to a leap in the number of registered association members. Starting with less than 10 owners at the beginning of June, KCA now counts 16 active members.
“The monumental part of this was getting people to agree and to meet – that part is well on its way,” said Nicholas.
According to Gabriel, this was the first stepping stone towards involving the community in a more proactive manner.
“Our community has been splintered, since I was a kid, politics have always divided us,” he said.
“It’s an opportunity to be involved, bring the community back together and go in a positive direction,” Gabriel added. “We could use this industry to build-on and move forward, both socially and economically.”
Although KCA members will be responsible for drafting regulations, the community will ultimately be consulted for approval.
As of this week, there have already been two meetings where the association invited the community to convene with them to discuss the industry’s future.
Gabriel explained that discussions with Kanehsata’kehró:non have inspired KCA members to also establish a system where monthly funds will be reallocated towards community programs.
“We want to meet with organizations in the community to see where there are the most pressing needs,” said the spokesperson. “We want to use the industry to really build up the socio-economic development platform for the community. There’s a lot of needs there.”
In addition to community input on regulations and distribution of profits towards local initiatives, Gabriel stated that association members acknowledged that the overall industry should operate by and for all of its members.
“The jurisdiction we have to be able to operate is because of the community members who stand up and fight for our rights,” said Gabriel. “There’s respect to be paid there and, in a sense, we see the ownership as belonging in part to the whole community as well.”