Wednesday, September 30, 2015

S.D. tribe to open nation's first marijuana resort

Atka Lakota Museum & Cultural Center
map of South Dakota Indian reservations
The Flandreau Santee Sioux, a 400-member tribe on the 5,000-acre Flandreau Indian Reservation (green on map), "is undertaking a new venture—opening the nation’s first marijuana resort," Regina Garcia Cano reports for The Associated Press. The tribe, which has a successful casino, a 120-room hotel and a 240-head buffalo ranch, says competition and lingering effects of the Great Recession have caused it to look for new means of economic development, leading to the marijuana resort, which, if successful, could serve as "a new money-making model for tribes nationwide seeking economic opportunities beyond casinos."

Tribal leaders, who say the resort could generate $2 million a month in profit, "plan to grow their own pot and sell it in a smoking lounge that includes a nightclub, arcade games, bar and food service, and eventually, slot machines and an outdoor music venue," Cano writes. Tribe president Anthony Reider told her, “We want it to be an adult playground. There’s nowhere else in America that has something like this.” The resort is expected to open Dec. 31 for a New Year's Eve party.

The Santee Sioux, which legalized marijuana in June not too long after the Justice Department outlined a new policy that allows Indian tribes to grow and sell marijuana under the same conditions as some states, "hope to use pot in the same way that many tribes rely on casinos—to make money for community services and to provide a monthly income to tribal members," Cano writes. (AP photo by Jay Pickthorn: Consultant Jonathan Hunt checks seedlings growing in the new marijuana growing facility on the reservation)

While existing enterprises support family homes, a senior living community, a clinic and a community center offering after-school programs, Reider said he "hopes marijuana profits can fund more housing, an addiction treatment center and an overhaul of the clinic. Some members want a 24/7 day care center for casino workers."

One concern is that the next president "could overturn the Justice Department’s decision that made marijuana cultivation possible on tribal land," Cano writes. Even if it doesn't, tribal lands have strict policies regarding marijuana. It "cannot leave the reservation, and every plant will have a bar code. After being harvested and processed, it will be sold in sealed 1-gram packages for $12.50 to $15—about the same price as the illegal market in Sioux Falls, according to law enforcement. Consumers will be allowed to buy only 1 gram—enough for two to four joints—at a time." To get more, the bar-coded package has to be returned to the counter.

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