With pot legalization coming this year, the First Nations of Canada are petitioning for a cut of cannabis tax revenue. Manny Jules is the chief commissioner of the First Nations Tax Commission. He wants lawmakers to amend Bill C-45, the nation’s pot legalization law, to allow First Nations to set policy on tribal lands.
Indigenous communities of Canada are known as the First Nations. Jules is a former chief of a band near Kamloops, B.C.
Left Out of the Plan
Bill C-45 imposes an excise duty tax of one dollar per gram of weed. Last year, the federal and provincial governments struck a deal to share that tax revenue.
Provinces will receive 75 percent of the take, with the federal government getting 25 percent. Provinces would get a larger cut because they will incur higher costs with legalization.
But lawmakers included no plan to share the money with First Nations governments.
Therefore, Jules wants the federal and provincial governments to give up their right to impose taxes on reservations. The First Nations could then create their own rules to levy and collect taxes, providing much-needed revenue to local communities.
Tribal governments could use the money to regulate the cannabis trade, while funding drug education programs and law enforcement.
Lawmakers should have included the First Nations from the beginning, Jules believes.
“I think that people are very disappointed that we weren’t considered early on. The challenges [First Nations] face are even larger than those of the provincial governments,” he told the CBC.
Sen. Dennis Patterson of Nunavut agrees that the First Nations should have been consulted sooner. The federal government has committed to a policy of improved relations with Native Canadians.
“I’m frankly amazed that a government committed to developing a new nation-to-nation relationship, and a new fiscal relationship specifically, with indigenous peoples overlooked this obvious opportunity to reach out to First Nations who want to opt in.”
It’s Not Only About Taxes
Tax money isn’t the only thing at stake. Tribal leaders also want a piece of the newly legal cannabis market to come.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer estimates the recreational retail pot market is worth at least $5.5 billion. Self-regulation would allow the First Nations to create businesses and jobs on reservations.
Sen. Dan Christmas of Nova Scotia is a member of the Mi’kmaw First Nation and is in favor of the proposal. He believes that after years of neglect, the federal government should support self-sufficiency for the First Nations.
“It seems we’re at a point in time where we’re at a fork in the road here,” he said.
“One road that has been taken in the past is to simply ignore First Nations’ revenue-generating abilities and their inherent jurisdiction to raise their own funds and just go down the path of the federal government providing endless transfers to First Nations or Indigenous organizations.”
Final Hit: First Nations of Canada Petitioning For Cut of Cannabis Tax Revenue
Sen. Patterson is a member of the Senate Aboriginal Peoples Committee. He said the proposal is receiving enthusiastic support from First Nations leaders.
“The general flavor is positive,” he told CBC. “I can’t speak for the committee as a whole, but I’m certainly going to be encouraging them [to amend the bill].