Canada Legalizes Marijuana October 17: How Will it Affect Native People?By Doug George-Kanentiio On October 17th Canada will enter a new phase in its history when the personal possession of marijuana becomes legal. The enactment of Bill C-45 means an individual over 21 may have in their public possession up to 30 grams (1 ounce) of marijuana which can also be made into food such as cookies. There may be 4 marijuana plants grown in each household which must be kept away from minors. Driving under the influence of marijuana carries severe penalties ranging from a mandatory $1,000 fine for the first conviction to a month in jail for the second and 120 days for the third. Also as part of the penalties will be five years in prison for selling marijuana without a license although it may be given to another within the above amounts. For the police deciding how to determine if a person is driving under the influence of marijuana is mostly guess work since the technology has yet to be developed to accurately set a firm standard.
For Native people who have relied on open passage in accordance with the Jay Treaty and the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act and who may use marijuana this will also be an issue. As it stands a Canadian Native person with a blood quantum of 50% or more has all the rights of an American citizen with the exception of casting ballots in US elections. How Bill C-45 effects that right has yet to be determined. At Akwesasne there may be arrests and detentions. Since the St. Regis Tribal and Mohawk Council of Akwesasne police agencies are empowered under US and Canadian statutes they will have little choice but to abide by those laws. There are thousands of border crossings at Akwesasne across the international boundary during any given day. The Mohawk population is effectively divided in half by that border which is largely open. There are no customs stations on the Akwesasne territory but there are two large Port of Entry offices on the western edge of the reservation but a highly visible US Border Patrol presence in the area. To date, no discussions have been initiated as to the movement of marijuana from the southern (US section) of Akwesasne to the northern region (Canadian side). This will inevitably happen since it is anticipated that the demand for recreational and medical marijuana will skyrocket after October 17 and the domestic suppliers in Canada cannot meet the demand. In short, legalization in Canada presents a serious matter for Natives and particularly for the Mohawks of Akwesasne. Doug George-Kanentiio, Akwesasne Mohawk, is the vice-president of the Hiawatha Institute for Indigenous Knowledge. He has served as a Trustee for the National Museum of the American Indian, is a former land claims negotiator for the Mohawk Nation and is the author of numerous books and articles about the Mohawk people. He may be reached via e-mail at: Kanentiio@aol.com or by calling 315-415-7288.
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