Canadian Indigenous cannabis producer eyes global expansion: Q&A with All Nations executives

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Image of Darwin Douglas

Darwin Douglas, CEO of All Nations

An Indigenous-owned and -operated cannabis producer in British Columbia has its sights set on domestic and international expansion.

In an interview with MJBizDaily, All Nations executives said one of their big advantages is the company’s story.

“We’re giving people (consumers) all of the things they look for when they want to buy into something; it’s good product, has a good story, and consumers are ethically paying into something they know is going to help the economy and development,” said Stacey Duffy, the company’s director of retail.

CEO Darwin Douglas added that “we’ve focused on the production of quality cannabis. That’s our foundation. That’s our bedrock – to grow premium and ultra-premium cannabis.

“That’s the sweet spot – to be successful in business and also support positive social change in the communities where we work.”

All Nations, which is majority-owned by the Shxwhá:y Village Indigenous community near the city of Chilliwack, is one of a handful of licensed producers located on a reserve in Canada.

“Connecting people with Indigenous culture through our cannabis and products is a competitive advantage,” Douglas said.

“We’re also about connections, telling our story and the stories of Indigenous people,” Douglas said.

Shxwhá:y Village and the province recently entered a government-to-government agreement to support cannabis-related economic development under Section 119 of B.C.’s Cannabis Control and Licensing Act.

Douglas said the agreement allows the company to own eight stores and supply up to half the products on the shelves.

Soon, he wants to bring his Indigenous brand to the rest of the world.

“There’s not a lot of Indigenous businesses that are involved in international trade, so it’s new ground for us and we’re happy to be part of that work,” he said.

MJBizDaily spoke with Douglas, Duffy and All Nations Director of Cultivation Todd Scarlett about the company’s strategy, hurdles and opportunities.

What trends are you seeing in the Canadian industry?

Image of Stacey Duffy
Stacey Duffy

Stacey Duffy, director of retail: We’re finding a lot of people are wanting to learn more about the brands and products they’re consuming.

We’re starting to find that the consumer is coming in with a little bit more of a sophisticated concept of what they want.

Years ago, it was “give me the cheapest ounce.”

Now we’re seeing more people who are wanting better quality and want to know where products are coming from.

One of the trends we’re seeing is people wanting to understand more of who’s producing their product; who’s behind it; is it hang-dried, hand-trimmed.

One of the things we’re seeing is local “BC bud” is the best-moving product on our shelves.

How do international cannabis markets, so far very small, play into your strategy?

Darwin Douglas, CEO: We want to produce (medical) cannabis here on Indigenous lands and export it to countries around the world.

Right now, we’re in discussions with countries with (federally regulated) medical markets.

As new countries come online with legalization and regulation, we’ll be looking to those markets and where we can supply, and hopefully where we can have our Indigenous brand represented.

Why is Indigenous participation relatively low in Canada’s adult-use cannabis industry?

Douglas: Adequate and meaningful consultation (with Indigenous communities) did not take place when the legislation was rolled out.

We talk about “reconciliation,” but it hasn’t happened yet. There was an opportunity with the cannabis legislation, but it didn’t happen.

I think it goes back to the fundamental issues that still exist in our country related to the recognition of Indigenous inherent rights and title and treaty rights.

These have been continuously overlooked in many areas.

Do you have any advice for other businesses looking to follow in your footsteps? 

Douglas: For other Indigenous groups, come and talk to us. We’re happy to help, even if it’s advice and not in a consulting fashion.

Seeking advice from other producers who have gone through the process successfully is very important, because we’ve made some mistakes, been through the ups and downs, and we’re happy to share those experiences with other Indigenous groups.

Can you share any of those hurdles and how you overcame them? 

Douglas: There were big challenges in getting Shxwhá:y its Section 119 deal for retail with the province (of British Columbia). That was a long process. It took years.

My advice is, don’t give up. Keep working toward your vision. A lot of willpower, work and resources will make it happen.

Can you share any innovative ways you save money?

Todd Scarlett, director of cultivation: From a cultivation standpoint, what may be relevant to us compared to most other shops is we maintain our own mother (plants) and take all of our own cuttings.

We don’t do any out-of-house propagation.

You can’t not be efficient in this business. You won’t make it.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Matt Lamers can be reached at matt.lamers@mjbizdaily.com.