Tax-free pot will be used to fund programs in Conne River

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Miawpukek First Nation chosen to sell marijuana on its reserve.

It still has to be approved by the community, but the Miawpukek First Nation Reserve in Conne River was one of 24 successful applicants announced Monday to sell marijuana in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Chief Misel Joe says the weed will be tax free for some.

"Like everything else coming to the reserve, it would be tax exempt. Everything that's brought into the community is tax exempt, so that would be no different," Joe told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

The band already runs a Liquor Express outlet, and Joe said the marijuana retail operation would be a separate storefront, but located in the same building. As with alcohol sales, cannabis would be tax free for First Nations people with a valid Indian Status card.

For Joe the licence application made sense as part of ongoing economic development in the area.

"What we've done with our cigarette sales and liquor sales, additional revenues that we get go back into our coffers in terms of health care and other things that we're not being funded for by Health Canada," he said.

Chief Misel Joe says band members still have to approve plans for a marijuana retail operation.

"You know, it's been bought for a long time through the black market, and it's another way for us to make revenue for this community."

While the band's application was approved by the provincial government, members of the community will get the final say.

The chief said consultations will be held to get approval before the band goes into the business of selling pot.

"To be honest with you, I have not heard a lot of things come back from the community. We'll find that out in the next little while. Of course, we're coming up onto election time in June, so I'm sure it's going to be part of the discussion somewhere along the way."

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