ALDERVILLE – The owner of Medicine Wheel Natural Healing of Alderville First Nation says he has an ongoing dialogue with Northumberland OPP to ensure he meets their concerns about public safety and to let the police know what he is doing.
The new healing, medical marijuana dispensary is located at 8986 County Road 45 and Rob Stevenson says he sells both cannabis and non-cannabis products.
“I hope (the police) will respect our rights,” Stevenson said in an interview at the business that saw hundreds of people visit during last Saturday’s official opening and to register at the first Indigenous medical cannabis dispensary outside of Tyendinaga.
“I don’t have a criminal record” and don’t have criminal ties of any kind and “I feel I’m protected by our United Nations treaty rights to operate this kind of business helping people and my community,” Stevenson explained.
But how the police, who closed down South Shore Wellness on the other side of the county road last year, will act “absolutely is a concern,” Stevenson said quite bluntly.
That’s why Stevenson has a lot of interaction and dialogue with police to meet with them and explain the standards he uses in his business dealing with public-and-product safety, as well as the coming changes when recreational marijuana use is legalized by the federal government next summer.
Officers have been trained that cannabis is an illegal and illicit substance and not about the healing aspects of it, he explained. It will take a longer time to change perception, Stevenson said.
Vehicles were lined up along the roadway during the official opening last Saturday and periodically police patrolled along the county roadway where the Roseneath Rodeo was also taking place last weekend.
“The police were out there but not targeting people from our store,” said Stevenson who is also the Ontario vice-president of the National Indigenous Medical Cannabis Association which is working with Health Canada to get First Nation growers licenced in order to fill the coming shortfall in cannabis products.
The existing federal licencing system is lengthy and too costly for First Nations, he said, where there already exist experienced marijuana growers who are part of the “black market” at this time.
Health Canada allows up to 17 herbicides and pesticides in the marijuana produced by its licenced marijuana growers, but Stevenson’s goal is to have control over natural and organically-grown plants from “seed to sale.”
There is a growing market and this is a good business for First Nations people whom Stevenson vows he will help establish in their own businesses. He already employs 10 Alderville First Nation staff where, among other services, a lab will test grown or purchased marijuana for mould and purity.
In a newsletter about his business, Stevenson is quoted as stating that “anyone else who opens up a dispensary on this reserve, or any other reserve, I’m glad to share any of my information here. I’m documenting everything I’ve done, from security and renovations to training employees, product education…I’m willing to share all this information at no cost to the people who will do do this.
“The reason being, I want to see this done right and I don’t want dispensaries to be seen in a negative light because people are doing them wrong.”
Part of the way Stevenson’s business is accomplishing this is through daily product training for his staff and security procedures he has put in place, aspects of the Medicine Wheel that he brings to the attention of the police.
And if Stevenson is confronted with a criminal element, he will bring that to the attention of the police as well, he said.
Stevenson says he wanted a new business challenge and to help people and his community, and this healing business venture is filling up a void and answering something for which he has been searching a long time.
He has already received all kinds of testimonials from people since his “soft opening” in June who have been helped with pain and other health issues from the use of salves (some with and some without cannabis), “tinctures” or cannabis drops taken orally, and other products containing THC and CBD, separately or together.
Because THC provides a high, growers were breeding CBD out of marijuana plants but are going back to it now because of the benefits not only singularly but in conjunction with THC, he explained.
Stevenson knows the medical benefits himself, having taken medical drugs for years to combat anxiety and panic attacks.
“I’ve been able to get off my medication by using tinctures under my tongue,” he said. “It’s definitely helping.”
Developing a data bank at his business about clients’ medical issues and how they respond to various products is very important, Stevenson explained. People register and the information is kept confidential but the data (minus names and other identification) is shared with the Association to build a larger data bank of knowledge about how cannabis can heal people and manage pain.
“I’ve always felt empty…that I had a deeper purpose,” Stevenson said.
Helping heal people, receiving testimonials, and doing it in his community by employing and training young people in business, is turning that feeling around in Stevenson.
“I’m filling that void,” he said.