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Health Canada, Kahnawake reach pact

LAURENCE BRISSON DUBREUIL THE EASTERN DOOR

In the latest effort to move toward entering the cannabis industry, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) announced that on Monday, July 5, they signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Health Canada.

With respect to cannabis cultivation and processing on the territory, the agreement provides a mechanism for dual-licensing and exchange of information between the federal health agency and the Kahnawake Cannabis Control Board (KCCB).

MCK chief and the lead on the cannabis file, Tonya Perron, explained that the non-binding protocol arranges for the implementation of provisions crucial to creating a safe and well-regulated industry for the community.

“The MOU is to ensure that there are terms and conditions for the sharing of information, as well as coordinated efforts in terms of inspections, reporting and tracking, and ensuring compliance for both licenses,” said Perron. “It doesn’t speak to jurisdiction at all – it really is about the coordination of the working relationship.”

According to the chief, the permit criteria of the compliance outlined by both Health Canada and the KCCB are almost identical.

In spite of this, board chairperson Brandon Montour conveyed that a dual-license process is critical to guarantee that the community has the final say on licensing on its territory.

“It’s important that we have our own regime in the community that reflects our distinct needs,” said Montour. “There are many interests and concerns that need to be balanced within the community and this is why the KCCB is in place.”

The items agreed upon in the MOU are accompanied by those in the Kahnawake Cannabis Control Law, enacted in December 2018.

“Within our cannabis control law it specifically states that the Health Canada permit is only necessary until we develop our own expertise in that area,” said Perron. “It’ll then be pushed out since there will be no need for it anymore.”

It’s with the interests of the community in mind, that the board also arranged that the MOU may be terminated at any time.

While it remains in place, Perron emphasized the benefits of the agreement; namely by highlighting the mutual sharing of information.

“Transfer of knowledge is very important for us because we want to eventually be able to do all of the work that Health Canada is doing to ensure health and safety,” she said.

“We want to be able to have our own people and our own full system in place for that.”

Montour explained that in order to achieve this, the MOU sets out that the KCCB be granted access to information that would otherwise be restricted.

“Health Canada has a lot of the infrastructure and information systems already in place, so this information will be very helpful for us and will allow us to utilize it for our purposes at the board,” he said.

When all is said and done, Montour expressed his confidence in the work being led alongside Health Canada to establish a healthy and balanced industry for all Kahnawa’kehró:non.

“We share many common objectives such as the safety of the community, the well-being of our youth, and the regulation of cannabis in a safe manner,” he said. “We believe that this sharing of information will help meet all of these goals.”

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Laurence Brisson Dubreuil is a multimedia journalist based in Tiohtià:ke/Montreal, Canada. She holds a BA in journalism, with a minor in law and society from Montreal's Concordia University.

Laurence began reporting with The Eastern Door in the fall of 2020, after completing a fellowship with the Institute for Investigative Journalism, a national investigative organization.

Among many things, Laurence is passionate about investigative reporting, human rights, and environmental issues.

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