It has been nearly a year since the Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service raided dispensaries on Cornwall Island
An action that sparked a political crisis in the community that culminated in an angry protest a few weeks later, where a police car was stolen and burned.
Since then, the age-old divisions enflamed by the raids have calmed, for the most part. There have been no more raids on cannabis dispensaries on the island, and several new storefronts have opened – including a new longhouse-affiliated dispensary.
The police, meanwhile, appear to have shifted tactics by going after the supply of cannabis instead of the dispensaries themselves and have made several large busts in recent months.
But while the situation is much calmer, the conflict between the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (MCA) and people of the longhouse over the dispensaries, and who has the right is issue licences for them, is continuing in court.
The legal team of one of the men arrested on the raid on the longhouse-run Wild Flower dispensary, Jared Jock, is planning to argue that the Canadian constitution’s protections for Aboriginal rights guarantees the longhouses’ ability to run their own dispensaries without MCA approval. The MCA, on the other hand, has rejecting an offer by the Crown to resolve Jock’s criminal case through a restorative justice process that might require a compromise of its own position.
Jock’s lawyer, Michael Crystal, said their legal strategy will be to argue that Section 35 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives Jock and other people of the longhouse the right to sell cannabis without a licence from the MCA.
“He has what we are arguing is a legitimate authorization from the members of his community (the Indian Way Longhouse,) and the MCA is suggesting that because he did not apply to them for a permit under their bylaws that he is operating outside the law. We take issue with that on a constitutional basis,” said Crystal. “Under the constitution, he has a right to engage in this activity because he belongs to the longhouse tradition and, through that authority, he was granted permission.
The MCA has been on the verge of issuing the first round of its own cannabis licences to businesses that have gone through the three-to-six-month application process for several weeks.
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