The third annual National Indigenous Cannabis & Hemp Conference (NICHC)is slowly wrapping up this week in Kelowna.
The four-day event is running from Tuesday to Friday at Delta Hotels and has seen First Nation chiefs and business leaders talk about the economic benefits that the cannabis industry is bringing to Indigenous communities throughout Canada.
As part of the discussions today, four panelists talked about how rural First Nation communities are benefiting from the construction of their very own cannabis production facilities and stores.
Wesley Sam, co-founder of a cannabis production company based in Burns Lake called Nations, said more and more Indigenous communities are looking to cannabis to help fulfill labour gaps in their communities.
“There is a big downturn in the forestry industry right now. Many of those impacted areas are are looking to bring back businesses to their communities,” said Sam.
“We believe that cannabis is one of those answers.”
The cannabis production facility that Sam is building in Burns Lake is just one real life example of how Indigenous communities can diversify their own local economies. The cannabis facility he’s refurbishing used to manufacture wood products.
Sam said his own cannabis facility will have numerous economic benefits to the community once it’s complete in four months.
“Once it’s all said and done, the spin-offs for Burns Lake will be up to 60 people employed in various job opportunities,” said Sam.
“Ten to 12 million dollars will be spent in the area alone from the facility.”
In the Okanagan, Genotype Innovations co-founder Alex Weber said at the conference that his company is helping numerous local First Nations access the growing cannabis sector.
“We help First Nation communities federally or on their own. Every community is completely different in how they might want to access the industry,” said Weber.
“We advise them how to build their business towards the cannabis industry. For example, we might advise them on the new United Declarations Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ coming into affect and how that might impact cannabis legislation.”
According to Statistics Canada, more than five million Canadians reported having used cannabis between mid-August and mid-September of this year.