South Dakota Tribe Prepares First Marijuana Resort for the New Year

South Dakota Resort

Whenever there are discussions of legalization, there are usually two groups that get highlighted: recreational users and medicinal users. Then, an unavoidable tangle ensues between state and federal regulations, leading to questions of how new laws will treat users, taxes and possible offenses. Beyond those two groups, there is a third, and it has just as much to gain and just as much at stake: Native American tribes. In South Dakota, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe is one tribe looking to monetize the popular cash crop.

Federal and local laws do not always apply the same way on Native American land, and this past June, the Flandreau Santee Sioux legalized the possession, consumption, cultivation and distribution of marijuana. This is in preparation for the tribe’s yearlong project of building the first-ever marijuana resort on a reservation.

The resort, slated to open before the end of 2015, is going to be in a remodeled bowling alley on the reservation and will be within a block of the tribe’s casino. It will have a club or lounge atmosphere, and will have “food, drinks, live music and maybe some slot machines,” according to Seth Pearman, the tribe’s lawyer.

To supply the marijuana, the tribe has constructed a grow house that is now operational. There will be 65 different strains grown in this facility, and the resort estimates selling up to 80 pounds per week. The reason behind the strain variety is similar to the reasoning behind Colorado’s cannabis offerings; the tribe hopes to instill a culture that appreciates strain variety akin to the way wine lovers appreciate varietals.

South Dakota itself has not legalized marijuana, be it for recreational or medical purposes. This may cause a problem because while the federal government has sanctioned marijuana on tribal lands, it is still technically illegal for non-tribe members to use it in the state.

Resort plans are moving forward even though opposition has been building. One voice of opposition is South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley. Jackley specifically noted that problems could occur because marijuana possession and consumption is still illegal for “all non-Indian persons anywhere in South Dakota including with Indian country.”

The use of marijuana by tribes in states that still recognize federal laws regarding the substance is made possible by a memorandum from 2014. It essentially requires the tribes go by the laws enacted in states that have legalized marijuana, placing the biggest focus on keeping it out of the hands of minors and not contributing to illegal enterprises.

This might be the first successful attempt to open a tribal marijuana resort, but it is not the first attempt at opening a marijuana resort. Earlier this year, The MaryJane Group (OTCQB: MJMJ) attempted to open a similar resort in Colorado, known as CannaCamp; it was to be the first resort of its kind, but failed to launch due to problems acquiring land.

The tribal resort, if successful, will help fund education, community services and provide a monthly income for tribal members. The resort is projected to annually generate close to $24 million for the tribe. If successful, tribes that have been hesitant to embrace marijuana might begin to shift their stance.

Josh Browning is a writer and editor based in Washington and has a background working in the technology, education and creative writing fields. He earned his MA from Western Washington University and his BSS from Ohio University.

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