Indian reservations have long struggled with substandard living conditions and a plethora of financial hardships. Some have found great success from building casinos, but some tribes have been seeking alternative means to drive revenue. According to an article featured in Fox Business News, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe in eastern South Dakota is preparing to open a legal marijuana business on their reservation within the next six months.
This past December, the U.S. Justice Department announced that Indian tribes across the U.S. can now legally grow and sell marijuana as long as they abide by federal regulations, just like those that have been imposed in Colorado, Washington and other states where the drug is legal.
The construction of this new facility on the Flandreau Indian Reservation is currently being set up. Colorado-based Monarch America, a cannabis management company, will be designing and building the business, which is set up to be open by Christmas of 2015. Members of the tribe are hopeful that this business decision will be lucrative industries like their growing casino enterprises.
According to USA Today, one hang-up of this decision is whether it is, in fact, actually legal. Attorney General Marty Jackley of South Dakota claims that the legality of marijuana on Indian reservations is not “black and white.” Jackley said, “I want to encourage tribal leaders to continue to work with state authorities to better ensure … that both Indian and non-Indian persons are not put in harm’s way by the jurisdiction complexities being created by our federal government.”
Eric Hagen, the CEO of Monarch America, said the federal government will not prosecute tribes or people who buy marijuana as long as the channels for marijuana growth and distribution are regulated in accordance to federal guidelines. He promises that the Flandreau Tribe will have more strict regulations than those of states like Colorado or Washington.
Another issue to address is making sure that marijuana doesn’t leave the reservation, a detail which concerns local law enforcement. Hagen believes that this will not be a problem because Monarch America will be implementing a “radio frequency identification (RFID) inventory and tracking system,” which will track the marijuana from when it is grown until it sold. This measure ensures that the marijuana does not get into the wrong hands.
Hagen says that the business will only allow visitors to buy one gram of marijuana at a time and that it must be consumed within the establishment. “It’s like beer and going to a bar. You don’t grab a six-pack, then drink one and try to walk out the door with the other five. Again, it’s just not going to happen,” he said.
Flandreau Police Chief Anthony Schrad disagrees on this matter. He said, “I personally don’t believe it will remain in the building. You can purchase the marijuana in the lounge, but it seems to me it would be very easy to remove the RFID tag from the container you purchase it in, transfer the marijuana to your own personal vial and leave with it.”
Since the U.S. Justice Department made it legal for reservations to grow and sell marijuana, over 100 tribes across the country have shown interest in the opportunity. Many tribes have looked to the management firm FoxBarry Farms for help with this project. FoxBarry Farms CEO Barry Brautman explained that the booming legal marijuana industry could provide some great economic benefits for reservations in the future. While it does pose some legal complexities, the booming marijuana industry could be the beginning of some great opportunities for reservations who struggling to survive.
Indian reservations have been associated with poor living conditions and alarmingly high rates of addiction and alcoholism. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11.7 percent of deaths among Native Americans and Alaska Natives between 2001 and 2005 were alcohol-related. While numbers on marijuana consumption on these reservations could boost the local economy, substance abuse of any kind can be detrimental to physical and mental health.
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