In a landmark move, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Indian Reservation of eastern South Dakota became the first in the state to legalize the use and sale of marijuana on tribal lands.
The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe Executive Committee made the decision in June to allow for marijuana use in both medical and recreational capacities on its lands, furthering the tribe’s reputation as an organization unafraid of controversy.
“Throughout Indian country, Flandreau’s been trail-blazers,”
said Tribal President Anthony Reider (photo below), noting the tribe’s willingness to fight for what it believes even when those beliefs prove polarizing.
“We were with the casino, we were the second compacted tribe in the United States, the first and largest casino in between Atlantic City and Las Vegas, so it’s something that’s not new to us. We kind of like taking the forefront on issues.”
Currently, the tribe is outlining plans for a facility where the marijuana will be grown and cultivated and another, separate facility that will be used for medical and retail sales to individuals over the age of 21. It is expected that those under the age of 21 will be able to purchase and use marijuana if they are able to produce a doctor’s recommendation.
While some tribal residents share Reider’s sentiments and are eager for marijuana to become legal, others are more hesitant. The mayor of Flandreau, Mark Bonrud, is among those expressing trepidation. Bonrud said,
“We don’t see any benefits in having marijuana in one certain entity without any tax structure or anything that’s going to benefit the city, or the state of South Dakota.”
Seth Pearman, an attorney for the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, said that safety and security measures would be in place to ensure marijuana was not unlawfully removed from designated locations. Furthermore, Pearman said marijuana would be sold in a highly controlled environment, and that sold quantities could not exceed one gram at a time. He noted that the intent is for people to buy and use marijuana in the same manner they would alcohol, and that the one-gram limit was designed to reduce overconsumption of the product that could lead to drugged driving.
Pearman also noted that in order to purchase marijuana legally on the reservation, customers would have to produce a valid registration card. He added that the new ordinance includes plans to create a three-member marijuana control commission to oversee the industry on reservation land.
Currently, the more than 300 federally recognized Indian Reservations across the U.S. can decide for themselves whether they want to legalize marijuana on tribal lands. The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe and its affiliates expect the first legal marijuana retail operation to be open sometime in early fall.