The Oglala Sioux Tribe has voted to legalize medical and recreational marijuana on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
Preliminary results from the tribe’s election commission show that 82% voted in favour of medical marijuana legalization, and 72% approved recreational marijuana. Another proposal to legalize alcohol consumption at tribal casinos failed.
The results still need to be certified over the next week, but it would appear that the majority of the tribe has endorsed legalization. It could put the tribe on a collision course with state lawmakers.
Marijuana remains fully illegal in South Dakota, but the Oglala Sioux say that their sovereignty gives them the right to produce and sell cannabis on the reservation. Some Native American tribes have been hesitant to pursue marijuana industries on their land, citing fears that they could lose federal funding or see their casino licenses affected.
The U.S. attorney’s office for South Dakota has declined to comment on the situation, and state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg said he was watching developments. The tribe said it hopes to work with the state authorities on its plans.
The tribal council will begin to work on a licensing and regulatory framework at its next meeting, which takes place on March 30.
Initial plans suggest that the Oglala Sioux will not collectively cultivate and retail cannabis themselves, but license individuals to set up marijuana businesses on the reservation and charge a 30% marijuana retail tax.
Tribal leaders believe the Oglala Sioux would gain a significant economic benefit by attracting cannabis tourists. The reservation is in South Dakota, but it also borders Nebraska and it is very close to Wyoming. Marijuana is fully illegal in all three states, so the Oglala Sioux hope to welcome plenty of cannabis consumers.
South Dakotans will vote on whether to legalize both recreational and medical cannabis in the November ballot. However, if they vote in favour of legalization, any launch would be delayed by the bureaucratic process, and the Oglala Sioux hope to enjoy an initial monopoly.
Trent Hancock, an Oregon-based marijuana producer who has helped the tribe formulate the marijuana plans, believes the tribe could sell $100 million worth of cannabis in a year if it held such a monopoly.
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