Indigenous sovereign cannabis dispensaries band together to create a ‘Red Market’ 

‘We are starting to flourish here and it’s our time … to step up and start providing for our own,’ says Snaw-naw-as dispensary owner.

Indigenous sovereign cannabis

A ‘Red Market’ would create an industry standard by and for Indigenous people running cannabis dispensaries on their sovereign land, says Thomas Tyler Bob. Digital Art by Kelsie Kilawna.

Thomas Tyler Bob is working with other Indigenous dispensary owners across different territories to establish a “Red Market” — an economically-viable industry by and for Indigenous Peoples.

“This is modern-day First Nations business, understanding the complexities in laws and opportunities within nations,” he tells IndigiNews in an interview on April 15.

Bob is Snaw-naw-as, a member of Nanoose First Nation. His traditional name is Hulp’put stun, which he says means “to bring it home to the family.” He’s also the owner of Mary Jane’s Pure Cure (MJPC).

Bob says he launched MJPC just over two years ago as a consulting company because he wanted to help people understand how cannabis can be used. He says he was inspired to start the company after his dad used hemp-based cannabidiol (CBD) products as part of his cancer treatment.

With permission, Bob says he hit the road, and began attending pow wows to educate people about cannabis.

For the most part, he says he was “welcomed with open arms,” and when people shared concerns, he was able to ease them by sharing his intentions.

“We explained that we were just trying to teach people what it is and how to use it in a safe manner,” he says. “Elders started opening up and seeing that we were trying to come in a culturally safe manner, and that we were there to teach and not sell.”

Bob has since expanded his company to do “local delivery, mail-outs, web work, in-store shopping [and] curbside pick-up.”

Indigenous sovereign cannabis
The team at Mary Jane’s Pure Cure on Snaw-naw-as territory is working with Indigenous industry leaders to create a “Red Market.” Photo courtesy of Thomas Tyler Bob

Now he says he’s working with other Indigenous industry leaders — like Cory Brewer from Timxw Wellness in Syilx territory, as well as First Nations leaders and Elders across various territories.

“The whole big thing is creating a regulated Red Market where you have stores that are running on sovereign lands in their own nations so they can create laws and regulations, bylaws, and understandings of how to legally trade this product through various different routes and networks,” says Bob.

With a goal of helping other nations, his team created an app for Android users called Mary’s Maps, “a digital app for Indigenous businesses — sovereign dispensaries operating on sovereign territories.

“It doesn’t include the provincial locations, just the Indigenous stores,” he explains. “Right now we have 200 registered businesses and we’re climbing, and Google Maps is behind us for advertisement.”

“This is just the start of it,” he says. “Once nations start to understand that we can do this together as a collective group.”

“The sovereignty is the most beautiful part,” he says. “I think with land restrictions we struggle to become economically viable being subject to reserve lands … We don’t need to be subject to listening to governments enforce their laws in our territories where we have our own land codes or have our sovereign rights.

“We are starting to flourish here and it’s our time … to step up and start providing for our own and stop sticking our hands out. It’s time to work, put our people through school, learn to grow and supply with other nations through trade.”

Bob’s hope for the future is that this will become an industry led by Indigenous Peoples as sovereigns of the land, as protected by various founding documents such as the Royal Proclamation of 1763.

“Over the long term each nation will have an opportunity to own their own share and be open to trade with other nations. We need to keep it as our own so we can teach that to the young ones,” he says.

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