The Oglala Sioux Tribe in South Dakota will vote this week on whether to legalize marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes.

Tribal leaders believe the Oglala Sioux would gain a significant economic benefit by attracting cannabis tourists to their Pine Ridge Reservation. It could make them the only Native American tribe to set up a cannabis industry in a state where marijuana is illegal.

Marijuana is outlawed in South Dakota and the neighbouring states of Wyoming and Nebraska. That should leave the Oglala Sioux with a large addressable market of potential cannabis consumers.

“People will be coming in from all directions to get their medicine,” said Ricky Gray Grass, a tribal leader, in an interview with the Associated Press.

Tribal members are scheduled to vote on Tuesday on whether to approve medical marijuana and recreational marijuana. The vote will also focus on whether alcohol should be permitted at the tribe’s casino. “I think it’s going to win by a landslide,” added Gray Grass.

The Oglala Sioux would essentially argue that its sovereignty gives it the right to produce and sell cannabis on its reservation. However, other Native American tribes have been reluctant to set up marijuana businesses, as they fear they will lose federal funding or see their casino licenses contested as punishment for defying the federal and state government.

South Dakotans will have the opportunity to vote on recreational marijuana legalization and medicinal cannabis legalization when they go to the polls in November.

Campaigners gathered enough signatures for a constitutional ballot on medical marijuana legalization, and for a statutory ballot on adult-use legalization. Secretary of State Steve Barnett’s office has verified the signatures, meaning both measures will be placed on the November ballot.

However, long delays should be expected even if South Dakotans vote in favour of the measures. First the state would need to set up a regulatory framework and entrepreneurs would need to undergo licensing requirements.

The Oglala Sioux could steal a march on the rest of the state by approving the proposals this week and setting up a cannabis trade. The tribe’s new president, new Julian Bear Runner, has pitched it as a “jump-start” to the tribal economy, arguing that it would provide jobs and bring in money to improve the rundown infrastructure on the reservation.

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