Miyo Askîy Cannabis Co. is the latest Indigenous cannabis store in Saskatchewan to open in a First Nations community and under their own local regulations.
SLGA Permits Not Required for First Nations
In December 2022, the provincial government of Saskatchewan introduced the Cannabis Control (Saskatchewan) Amendment Act, 2022 to give First Nations in the province more autonomy in the regulation, distribution, enforcement, and sale of cannabis on-reserve.
These amendments came following a July 2022 order in council that stated that First Nations would no longer have to secure a permit from the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) to operate cannabis stores on-reserve.
While on the surface the amendments on cannabis appear to something that will benefit First Nations who want to participate in the cannabis economy, advocates have been skeptical about what the new legislation will achieve.
New Store in Piapot First Nations
Miyo Askîy Cannabis is located within the Piapot First Nations, a Cree First Nation in southern Saskatchewan near Regina. The store had its grand opening on July 19, 2023. Piapot First Nations owns the building and it operates under Piapot cannabis regulations
In a press release, Piapot First Nations says the store will employ eight full-time people and three part-time people and will provide an additional source of revenue for the Nation. Miyo Askîy Cannabis values include giving back to the community and has built a business model that will invest a portion of its revenues to support local community initiatives.
This business is licensed to operate under the Piapot First Nation Cannabis Act and will comply with the Piapot First Nation Cannabis Regulations. According to the Piapot First Nations, the Piapot Cannabis Act and Regulations meet or exceed the provincial and federal regulations with respect to cannabis.
Piapot First Nation is committed to exercising its sovereign right to pursue economic opportunities that benefit the Nation and its membership.
Generating Wealth for First Nations
Deverell Crowe, Director, Lands, Resources and Economic Development for Piapot First Nation, says the nation was looking for opportunities to generate wealth. “One of the opportunities we saw was entering into the cannabis market,” she says. “Our council had explored it in the past when it became legalized, but there was still a lot of stigma around cannabis and our elders were not quite ready to move in that direction.”
Several years later, the plan for a cannabis store landed on Crowe’s desk. Piapot First Nations brought in a legal team to help create a legal framework for them to develop their own cannabis act and regulations and be able to operate within an industry that is regulated and sell products that are safe for the community.
“It didn’t seem right that the province had the authority to give us permission,” says Deverell in reference to SLGA permits. “But I do understand why some Nations go under the provincial regulations. We take a sovereign approach. We have a broker that buys on our behalf from licensed growers. Our Act and regulations also include safety and quality control.”
Miyo Askîy Cannabis sells a mix of products from Indigenous and other licensed growers. In the future, Piapot First Nations plans to expand and open additional locations. Crowe says they are eyeing Prince Albert next.
Photo courtesy of Piapot First Nations.