Tobique Marijuana Dispensary Raid Came Close to ‘Full-Out Conflict,’ Chief Says

Tobique First Nation Chief Ross Perley. (Tobique First Nation)

Ross Perley says First Nation band sees RCMP raid on Tribal ReLeaf as an ‘attack’ on sovereignty

The chief of Tobique First Nation says the RCMP raid on the community’s new marijuana dispensary Thursday prompted a blockade that could have turned into a “full-out conflict.”

Ross Perley says Tribal ReLeaf, which opened in July, is 51 per cent-owned by the band and has the full support of band council as a “pain management centre.”

“We’re sick and tired of doctors and pharmacists shoving opioids down the throats of our people, paid for by Health Canada,” he said. “So this is a way … for people to get the medicine they need to try and live happy, peaceful lives.”

Perley said the marijuana can help people in the community with medical conditions such as cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as those trying to kick addictions to opioids and other narcotics.

And the band’s share of the revenue can go back into the community — everything from programs for youth and assistance for the elderly to helping the unemployed find jobs and infrastructure projects.

It’s only been a couple of months, but Perley said the initiative has been “good for the community” and that’s why there was such a strong show of support during the raid.

About 100 members and several vehicles blocked officers from leaving “for a number of hours,” he said. It was peaceful and no weapons were involved, but the situation was “delicate.”

The search and seizure by police was viewed as a “disrespectful” “attack” on the band’s sovereignty, said Perley.

“Luckily, me and my council were able to negotiate their safe release,” he said. “Basically, we avoided a full-out conflict and crisis in our community.”

Perley declined to disclose any details about the negotiations but did say charges against three arrested employees were dropped.

“We strongly believe in self-government and self-determination,” he said. “We regulate and license our own gaming, our own alcohol, our own tobacco and our own marijuana, and we do it efficiently.”

Tribal ReLeaf reopened within hours of being raided by the RCMP on Thursday. (Facebook)

RCMP contend the dispensary, located on Route 105 in northwestern New Brunswick, is illegal and unregulated and failed to comply with a “cease and desist” order last month.

​No charges have been laid and the investigation is continuing, spokesperson Cpl. Jullie Rogers-Marsh said on Friday.

Police are trying to determine who is supplying the shop, she said.

Perley declined to disclose the identity of the supplier or the names of the other part-owners.

“All I’ll say is we have the educational capacity and the sophistication to do proper quality control and regulation,” he said.

More serious problems

Perley questions why the RCMP would focus on the marijuana dispensary when the community is struggling with narcotics, such as opioids, fentanyl and cocaine — particularly when the federal government is expected to legalize recreational marijuana use by July 2018.

“People are sick, they’re dying on these [other] drugs,” said Perley, who has been the chief for three years.

“For us, that’s what the RCMP should be focusing on. We’ve been asking them to do something about it, they’ve done absolutely nothing. Absolutely nothing.

“When you have the support of the leadership and you have the support of the community to raid other real drug dealers,  and you’re not doing it, and you’re wasting your time and your resources on something that’s supported by leadership and by the community, I mean, it just doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Rogers-Marsh said the RCMP have to enforce the laws as they exist today, including the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, under which marijuana is still considered illegal.

She said she couldn’t speak about other “enforcement efforts ongoing.”

“There are different investigations at different stages,” she said.

CBC News, Posted Oct 6, 2017

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First Nations Issue Resolutions to Ban Drug Traffickers

Signs promoting living a life free of alcohol and drugs can be seen throughout Esgenoôpetitj First Nation. (Gail Harding/CBC)

Addictions counsellor hopeful Esgenoôpetitj band council will follow Elsipogtog and Tobique

By Gail Harding, CBC News Posted: Apr 16, 2017

As Esgenoôpetitj First Nation mourns and prepares for the funeral service of a suspected overdose victim, an addictions counsellor says they’re remaining vigilant and hopeful there will be no more overdoses.

Leo Bartibogue said there should be help available for people with addicitions, but he would also like to see something done to keep drugs like the pills suspected to have caused 35-year-old Ann Marie Lambert’s death — and four other overdoses — off the reserve.

The drug involved isn’t known yet, though people are concerned it’s fentanyl, a powerful drug that has been linked to an increasing number of overdose deaths across CanadaNeguac RCMP have asked Health Canada’s toxicology lab for an “urgent” analysis of the drug taken by Lambert.

Ann Marie Lambert of Esgenoôpetitj First Nation died Tuesday night of a suspected overdose. An autopsy resulted in drug samples being sent to Health Canada’s toxicology labs. ((Facebook))

Bartibogue is hoping to see the band council pass a drug-trafficking banishment resolution like councils in Elsipogtog First Nation and Tobique First Nation have.

“I did talk to the chief about it and asked that he make a recommendation. He’s going to address it with the council.”

The band councils’ resolutions were passed two days after the first four overdoses occurred in Esgenoôpetitj. Both communities’ resolutions warn that people trafficking fentanyl and other drugs will be banned.

Tobique’s resolution includes not only banishment from the reserve, but also from community services and benefits.

The band councils say they are taking these steps to protect the health and safety of those living in the community.

Bartibogue said in Esgenoôpetitj so many people are related it may be difficult for some to agree to a similar measure, knowing some people may be expelled.

“Hopefully something can be done to help this situation.” said Bartibogue.

Resolutions welcome

For John Levi of Elsipogtog First Nation, the news the band council is taking action is welcome.

“I’ve been fighting with the band to get rid of the dealers. I’m proud of the chief and council for taking that stand,” he said.

Levi said he’s been confronting people identified to him as dealers, telling them to stop what they are doing.

For him, it’s personal.

“I lost my niece last year to suicide, I knew what the drugs were doing to her,” Levi said of the 23-year-old.

With the resolution, he hopes more people will join his fight and more band councils will pass the same resolution.

“It takes strong a leader to do that. We need more of that,” said Levi.

Meanwhile, Bartibogue is working to get more naloxone kits into the community and more people trained to use them.

Naloxone is administered by a needle or nasal spray to a person who is suspected to have overdosed. It reverses the effect of an opioid overdose.

“I have one myself and we have two or three others,” said Bartibogue. “But we also need people to call us for help if they think someone has overdosed. We are here to help.”

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/first-nations-issue-resolutions-ban-drug-traffickers-1.4072397