The owner of Creator's Choice said he's confused as to why his Wahnapitae First Nation dispensary was raided Sept. 18, leading to his subsequent arrest.
Derek Roque was released on bail Thursday afternoon, after he and two sureties each committed to $20,000 ($60,000 total). He was also given a number of conditions by which he has to abide, including not attending Creator's Choice, or to even walk on the road where the dispensary is located.
The Ontario Provincial Police said they are putting out a release with respect to the raid and arrest. Click here to read the details released by OPP.
Roque was arrested Sept. 18 for a breach of recognizance when he was granted bail earlier this year. That arrest was associated with a raid of the dispensary, court heard Sept. 19.
As part of his bail conditions at the time, he was not to attend Creator's Choice. However, the court heard that on Sept. 11 this year, Roque was observed driving into the parking lot, then entering in a side door of the dispensary. He later emerged with a handbag, said the Crown attorney's office.
The raid was carried out under the Cannabis Act of Ontario.
Roque said he was arrested a short distance from Creator's Choice. He had driven there, snapped a photo while remaining in his vehicle on the roadway, then proceeded to drive away. He was pulled over by police and arrested.
“I'm really confused,” Roque said, minutes after he was released. “I've worked with politicians like (former Ontario Regional Chief) Isadore Day, and this was supposed to stop. We were supposed to be moving forward with this Indigenous cannabis revolution, and here I am getting released from jail after another raid.”
Day is the CEO of Bimaadzwin, an Indigenous organization offering a variety of consultation services to First Nations communities, focusing in particular on Indigenous nationhood. He is also the former regional chief of Ontario.
Day is quoted in a post on the Bimaadzwin website that First Nations must act now — together — to capitalize on this new green economy that will continue to grow, and has the potential to generate prosperity for decades and generations to come.
In the July 12 post, Day said First Nations wanting to become involved in the industry must work together based upon sovereignty and jurisdiction.
“We must engage with the federal and provincial governments to ensure harmonization with mainstream Canada,” he wrote in his post.
“Can our communities control the licensing, cultivation, and sale of cannabis and hemp? Yes. Will our community members benefit from long-term employment in the cannabis industry? Yes. First Nations can do a better job of protecting their community members, while generating wealth and improving health through a natural, green industry.”
In June, the Chiefs of Ontario, which represents 133 First Nations throughout the province, passed a resolution enabling First Nations to assert complete jurisdiction to govern all cannabis operations within their own territories. The resolution argues that no consultation took place with the federal government prior to the legalization of cannabis this past October.
While the resolution acknowledges that First Nations may consider following federal and provincial regulations while exploring opportunities within the cannabis industry, it also allows First Nations jurisdiction to establish their own laws and regulations.
That's what has been happening in Wahnapitae First Nation, Roque said.
“We have been working with our chief and council,” he said. “On Monday, we had a very positive meeting with the community, and we talked about how we're going to work together and move forward.
“Now I can't even walk down the street in my own First Nation. I have to drive, I can't walk on the street where Creator's Choice is located. This is a business that helps numerous people daily.”
Roque said he will go to jail for the rest of the Indigenous entrepreneurs who want to stand up and do this for themselves.
“We have the inherent right to do this,” he said. “Our chiefs have spoken loud and clear, but so has the OPP.”
Even though the raid was carried out by officers of Anishinabek Police Service, it's the OPP that is directing them, Roque said. He believes the OPP is targetting him and his dispensary.
He said when he was arrested, he alleges the officer banged his head off the cruiser and was yelling at him, telling Roque he had been told to shut down the dispensary.
“Why is this still happening? We've legalized marijuana across the country, we've had a vote that it's up to the territories to make decisions about cannabis dispensaries, and we're working on that. Who are they to say we aren't working fast enough, and to raid us before we can make any more progress. This is just to slow us down.”
The assistant Crown attorney told the court the bail amount was settled after “very careful consideration” from both provincial and federal prosecutors. The fact two people signed on as sureties, each committing $20,000 towards Roque's bail, was another factor in his release.
“I don't know what lies ahead for Creator's Choice,” Roque said. “People don't just rely on us for the product, they also rely on our knowledge and guidance. They're not just taking away the plant, they're taking way the communication and the support we provide.”
Wahnapitae First Nation was anticipating having Creator's Choice back up and running as of today.