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Economic opportunity in cannabis takes centre stage at Indigenous Agriculture Summit

WATCH: A new panel at Agribition's Indigenous Agriculture Summit is giving First Nations a chance to look at the ins and outs of cashing in on pot.

The legal cannabis game may be young, but many are trying to strike while the iron is hot.

A panel at Agribition’s Indigenous Agriculture Summit is giving First Nations a chance to look at the ins and outs of cashing in on pot.

“The business opportunity is there. The profit opportunity is there. The thing we want to discuss is about social responsibility,” Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme said.

Industry experts say cannabis retail could be a $2 billion industry for Indigenous communities in the first year of legalization.

READ MORE: FSIN threatens province with legal action over Sask. First Nations cannabis rights

“There are some communities that say we want to grow it, but we don’t want it sold in our community,” RavenQuest CEO and panelist George Robinson said.

“That’s pretty well defined what they’re going to do. There’s some that see a tremendous amount of traffic that come through their community from non-Indigenous folk, and they see it as an opportunity.”

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Robinson says band referendums and council resolutions are key before a nation writes a cannabis act and builds facilities.

“The initial input cost may be a little higher, but I think the sustainability of continuing to operate and grow hemp and get the extraction facility in place will just increase and be profitable year after year,” Fire and Flower COO Mike Vioncek said.

The groups are then tasked with deciding whether to apply for licenses through Health Canada or fight it in court on the grounds of treaty rights.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan gov’t to meet with First Nation operating unlicensed cannabis store

“You take a look at the potential tax savings that are in place, it’s like alcohol and tobacco,” Robinson said. “They have an opportunity to provide a better-priced product to those product-consuming people who’d love to come up to the nation.”

Cowessess First Nation wasn’t successful when it applied for Saskatchewan’s cannabis retail permit lottery, but Delorme said they’re receiving weekly phone calls from investors looking for a partnership in the booming industry.

He said they’ll continue the conversation about cannabis, but it isn’t a priority.

“We have a lot of things on the go,” Delorme said. “We’re a solar panel and turbine successful nation, so, renewable energy. We’re about to enter the agriculture industry in regards to canola. So cannabis is ongoing.”

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Proceeding with caution, as Canada finds its way post-pot-prohibition.