By Tom Keefer
TYENDINAGA MOHAWK TERRITORY – If there was one downside to Legacy 420’s old location, it was the parking lot. That parking lot was small, pitted with giant potholes, and of course, always full. So when owner Tim Barnhart decided to build a new state-of-the-art facility at 346 York Rd., putting in a big parking lot was at the top of his priorities.
And yet, on July 1st – Cannabis Day – there was Barnhart, staring out at his filled to capacity 100 car parking lot, and seeing parked cars stretching down both sides of the road as far as the eye could see. “Well, I guess maybe we’ll have to grow the parking lot too” said Barnhart, who is already adding on an extension to his just completed 7500 square foot Headquarters.
Opening day for Legacy 420 was a resounding success. Crowds of people from around the region of every age and walk of life poured in all day. With musicians Kevin Shaganash and Jason Brunette belting out tunes from the porch, and clouds of cannabis smoke drifting across the parking lot, it felt like history was being made.
The first small time dispensary in Tyendinaga had grown into a multi-million dollar enterprise, and there was a palpable sense of excitement that the sky was the limit now.
According to a tired but satisfied Barnhart, “we gave out 900 free joints, 700 hamburgers, 500 hot dogs, got 365 surveys completed, and had a turnout of 2200 people with 0 fatalities, and no overdoses!”
“Nobody’s angry, everybody’s happy”
Brian Marquis, the President of the Ontario Indigenous Medical Cannabis Association, was at the event. Taking it all in, Marquis offered his thoughts about the meaning of the new facility.
“It serves as a model. We’ve invited everybody to come down and have a look at this place. See the investment and the amount of work and energy that’s gone into it…. The products, the testing, the facility itself, the people, the staff. We are setting the standard very, very high.”
Marquis pointed to the wide variety of clients attending the facility. “Nobody’s angry, everybody’s happy… people are going to be healthier.” For Marquis, the 2200 plus people that showed up on opening day “is something that proves that this is not just needed, but that it is a responsibility for us to provide it. We have to build that socio-economic benefit for our next seven generations to come.”
Barnhart’s position has always been that the courts have recognized a constitutional right of patients to medical cannabis. As he puts it, “Cannabis in any form is legal for medical purposes. So the medical cannabis community and First Nations especially should be jumping right on board without fear. [Cannabis] is constitutionally protected – even off First Nations – if you do it right. If you do only medical and if you ask for medical cards, than you can open as many dispensaries as you want in Canada.” And that is without raising the issue of Aboriginal right to cannabis.
Barnhart’s undeniable success has led to a wave of emulators. At the moment, there are 16 other indigenous cannabis dispensaries operating on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. Each one brings their own unique approaches to servicing medical and recreational clients. And with each store employing their own extract producers, growers, candy makers, bakers, and retail workers, the labour intensive cannabis industry is quickly becoming one of the region’s greatest sources of employment.
Barnhart appears to be riding the wave of an idea whose time has come. He has taken the simple proposition that cannabis is a harmless plant with huge benefits that should be available to all people who want it, and made it real by opening up a store in a native community where police couldn’t shut it down. Now that model has taken root throughout Tyendinaga, and is spreading to other Indigenous communities.
On June 21st, Rob Stevenson of Alderville First Nation opened his dispensary, Medicine Wheel Natural Healing. Chadwick McGregor from Wahnapitae First Nation – 45 minutes north of Sudbury – opened a dispensary on his people’s territory five months ago. Both men were present at Barnhart’s Grand Opening. Inspired by his example the two of them are looking to the further growth of the Indigenous cannabis industry as a way of helping their communities. Chadwick a grower for the past 17 years, considers himself a Cannabis activist, and was grateful to be at the event and to learn what he could to improve his own dispensary. “I’ve always been involved with Cannabis, and I’ve seen the benefits it’s done for others and I want to pass those onto my community” he said.
As Brian Marquis noted, “The type of interest we’ve been receiving from all over the country has just been tremendous. We couldn’t ask for more. You know why? Because people want to be a part of it. They want to build their community’s social economic basis as well as their health and well being. They want to be a part of it. Who wouldn’t? It’s a great thing!”
Taking things to the next level
The public launching of Barnhart’s new headquarters represents a giant step forward into a whole new level for the Indigenous cannabis industry. As perceptions change, and legalization comes to more and more jurisdictions across North America, the formerly underground cannabis economy is increasingly coming into the open. And Barnhart is the public face of this movement in Indian Country today.
The first thing one notices inside his new facility is that Barnhart has supersized everything. The two story, 7500 square building is built like a barn. It has a 100 car parking lot, 55 feet of counter space to serve customers, an onsite doctors office and clinic, warehousing and growing facilities, an industrial bakery, an internal apartment for housing 24 hour security, office space for Indigenous cannabis advocacy organizations, and much more.
Barnhart’s new building meets or exceeds all the criteria that Health Canada imposes on the cannabis facilities of its Licensed Producers. It is completely surrounded by a 10 foot high barbed wire and chain link fence that is electrified when the store is closed. Guard dogs patrol the parking lot at night. All the windows of the building are made with bulletproof glass. The retail area is kept separate from product storage. Security cameras are everywhere and cover every possible angle inside and out of the store.
These security regulations are stipulated by Health Canada, and it is Barnhart’s intention to be ahead of Health Canada’s regulations every step of the way. That way, at whatever point that Health Canada might want to recognize the rights of Indigenous people to participate in the cannabis industry, Barnhart will already have met all their extremely high standards – something that few if any “grey market” facilities can say anywhere else in the country.
The other key factor about what Barnhart is doing is that he is going far beyond simply selling cannabis flower. At his new facility, Barnhart will not only be able to test products for purity and cannabinoid levels, but is entering into manufacturing cannabis byproducts. He has bought the Pixie Pop cannabis cola company, and will be restarting production inside his building. He is also looking to mass produce extracts for bulk sales to local bakers. And because he has invested in all the top of the line testing equipment, he’ll be able to monitor exactly what is in all the products he is producing.
Barnhart has not been one to hide what he has been doing. In the lead up to opening of his new facility, he publicly invited all political leaders, police forces, and government bureaucrats dealing with the cannabis file to come and visit his facility and to witness what has been accomplished in Tyendinaga.
If they come, “they will see that you can do this on a First Nation, that you can create a lot of employment and lots of benefit to first Nations people – not just in Tyendinaga, but right across Canada.”
Barnhart concluded by stating “[Cannabis] is not a bad thing. Nobody has ever died from it. So I think we should use this as a financial tool and then maybe we can stop taking handouts from the federal and provincial governments and stop being beholden to them.”
Legacy 420 is located at 346 York Rd. in Tyendinaga. The store is open every day of the week from 9am to 9pm.