Learn more about our efforts on the frontlines of the Indigenous cannabis industry in the Sault Ste. Marie.
Allan Ward is one of the path-makers of the Indigenous cannabis industry in the Sault Ste. Marie area. The founder of Temple Medicinal, the first Indigenous dispensary in the area, Ward is at the helm of a growing movement of Indigenous entrepreneurs who are using the cannabis plant to improve not only their own lives, but that of their people too.
Cree from Manitoba, Ward grew up in Scarborough in the Gabriel Dumont Aboriginal housing complex which his grandmother worked to establish. However, life in Scarborough was no easy ride, and Ward learned early that he had to hustle to survive and thrive.
In 1996 Ward moved to Sault Ste. Marie and started a family and went to school. However, he found he couldn’t support his four children given the job market in Sault Ste. Marie, and so he moved his family and went to work in Hamilton’s steel industry in the fall of 2000. Ward worked continental 12 hr shifts and a lot of overtime to provide for his family, but as a result of working so much, missed out on a lot.
On July 21, 2004, Ward’s life was changed forever when his right leg was crushed in an industrial accident at Nova Steel Processing. The accident ended his career in steel, and cost him his right leg below the knee.
Prescribed opiates by his doctor to treat the pain of amputation, Ward became addicted to them and struggled with depression and addiction.
Ultimately, it was cannabis that provided a way out – it combatted the pain, improved the quality of his life, and provided him with an income to support himself.
The Temple Medicinal Dispensary
In 2006 Ward and his family moved back to the Sault Ste. Marie area. In 2016, as Canada moved towards cannabis legalization, Ward decided to pursue his love of cannabis and opened up Temple Medicinal at 677 MacDonald Ave suite #229, in Sault Ste. Marie.
The business thrived and became a medicinal, cultural and political hub for all things cannabis in the Sault Ste. Marie area. As a lifelong cannabis aficionado, who had turned his own life around with the help of the plant, Ward was well positioned to help others.
However, there was no place for Ward and other grassroots cannabis entrepreneurs under Canada’s new cannabis laws. Rather than ending the prohibition of the plant, the Cannabis Act reinforced it, as only corporations with millions of dollars could become Licensed Producers.
After raids on the medicinal cannabis community became more common elsewhere in Ontario, Ward relocated Temple Medicinal to Garden River territory, where he lives.
Ward’s success, and his generosity in sharing his expertise and knowledge of the industry, encouraged several other Indigenous people in the Garden River area to open their own dispensaries [See Map on page 27 for a full listing of stores].
For Ward, one of the best things about his business is that it’s family run. His two older children, his son Allan Jr. and his daughter Aiyana, help to operate the business and work closely with him.
“Starting this business has given me the opportunity to work beside my kids and build a relationship with them I never got to experience working for someone else.”
Temple Medicinal Healing Centre
Ward has not limited himself to any one sector of the cannabis industry. Ward grows cannabis to meet his own personal medicinal needs, and now sells garden supplies and glassware at Temple’s town location to help others do the same. Meanwhile, Temple’s dispensary in Garden River has – hands down – the largest and best selection of cannabis products and accessories in the area.
But perhaps Ward’s most significant initiative in recent years, is his purchasing of 40 acre parcel of land in the Goulais river region which he is planning to turn into a healing and addiction recovery centre for Indigenous people.
The Healing Centre is located at the site of a former Bible camp, and features a conference centre and meeting place, as well as an 18-room chalet which Ward wants to use to host those in recovery and their families.
His goal is to provide cannabis based therapies based in Indigenous healing modalities, to support those seeking to overcome their addictions. The plan is for the healing centre to grow food, offer cultural training and be a safe space for the positive transformations necessary to overcome the trauma at the root of addiction.
Ward is currently renovating the buildings and is looking for investors and partners interested in helping to run the operation.
Giving back to the community
Although Ward’s persona is that of a gruff and hard working entrepreneur who has never had anything handed to him, he is well known for his generosity in supporting his people, and those less fortunate than him. Temple’s most recent charitable initiative has been to provide free Lacrosse equipment and training to any kids from Garden River First Nation in a weekly pick-up game every Saturday at 6pm at the Garden River ball field.
According to Ward: “When I was a youth growing up, my mom couldn’t afford sports for me, so I want to help the youth and kids here. Once we get a League going, we’re going to cover all registration fees for Garden River youth.”
To stay up to date on all of Temple’s efforts check their website.