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An emerging Indigenous cannabis cultivation company in Burns Lake will be supplying its product to 65 private B.C. retail stores, marking one of the first partnerships of its kind in the province.

Nations Cannabis announced it has signed a memorandum of understanding with 26 members of the Association of Canadian Cannabis Retailers (ACCRES), according to a joint news release issued Wednesday (July 15).

“It’s exciting that ACCRES wanted to work with us,” said company founder and executive chairman Wesley Sam, noting they are unaware of any such agreement involving other Indigenous cannabis companies.

“It’s a great opportunity to have products shipped direct to store front.”

ACCRES interim president Matthew Greenwood said he believes Nations Cannabis will become the premier and earliest Indigenous cannabis producer in B.C.

“They have a product that will allow our retailers to differentiate themselves from others in the marketplace,” Greenwood said in a statement.

“Furthermore, partnering with a company that gives an authentic voice to Indigenous peoples is an important aspect of this collaboration and will be exciting for consumers.”

Construction on the facility is nearly 70 per cent completed and located about five minutes outside of the city at the former Burns Lake Specialty Wood building, formerly owned by the Burns Lake Native Development Corporation.

Sam said they hope to resume work within the month, after being interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have about three months of construction left, and then hopefully final approval from the federal government,” he said. “Once the facility is completed Health Canada will come in and inspect and give us the okay to grow two crops and a license.”

The indoor facility is anticipated to produce six tonnes of cannabis annually in phase one through its five grow rooms, which will each have three tiers and 2,000 square feet of space.

It is supported by the Burns Lake Native Development Corporation which is co-owned by six local First Nations including Ts’il Kaz Koh First Nation (Burns Lake Band), Lake Babine Nation, Skin Tyee Band, Cheslatta Carrier Nation, Nee Tahi Buhn Band and Wet’suwet’en First Nation.

“As investors in the Nations’ project, we believe that the agreement with ACCRES represents real Indigenous economic reconciliation and participation in the cannabis industry,” noted Chief Dan George, of the Burns Lake Band (Ts’il Kaz Koh First Nation).

The band provided $1.5 million to support the development of the facility.

The projected value of the agreement is $28 million in the first year, and $96 million by year three.

Before pursuing the cannabis industry, Sam was a former Band Councillor and Chief of Ts’il Kaz Koh First Nation for nearly two decades.

He said the facility will provide up to 60 jobs in phase one – a much-needed economic boost due to adverse impacts by the pine beetle outbreak and downturn in forestry.

“We hope to expand like any other cannabis company as the years go on. We could either do an expansion on that property and or other facilities throughout B.C.”

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