The Santee Sioux Native American tribe is planning to open the country’s first marijuana resort on its reservation. If successful, the experiment could pave the way for new economic opportunities for Native American tribes across the country.
The tribe has already had business successes in the past. They run a successful casino, a hotel, and a buffalo ranch in South Dakota.
Leaders of the tribe plan to cultivate their own marijuana and sell it in a smoking lounge. The lounge will also include a nightclub, arcade games, a bar, and food services. They also plan to incorporate slot machines and an outdoor music venue in the future.
President of the tribe Anthony Reider said, “We want it to be an adult playground. There's nowhere else in America that has something like this."
The tribe believes that it could potentially generate up to $2 million in profit every month. The project is already under construction.
Plans are for the tribe to begin selling marijuana on December 31st at a New Year’s Eve party.
Marijuana was legalized on the Santee Sioux reservation last June.
While other Native American tribes are reluctant to become involved in the marijuana industry, some believe that it could be the biggest thing for tribes of Native Americans since they introduced casinos nearly 27 years ago.
Business developer for Native Americans Blake Trueblood said, "The vast majority of tribes have little to no economic opportunity. This is something that you might look at and say, `We've got to do something.'"
The tribe has already started an indoor marijuana farm, growing more than 30 different strains of the plant. In order to assist them with the growing process, the tribe has hired Monarch America, a marijuana consulting firm from Denver.
There are plans for tribal leaders from across the nation and legislators of South Dakota to tour the facility.
Vice president of Monarch America Jonathan Hunt said, "This is not a fly-by-night operation. (Tribal leaders) want to show the state how clean, how efficient, how proficient, safe and secure this is as an operation. We are not looking to do anything shady.”
A full-blown marijuana resort has not yet been attempted in the United States. Even Colorado, where marijuana has been legalized for recreational use, only has a few private marijuana clubs.
The Santee Sioux Reservation covers 5,000 acres of land in South Dakota, spanning the area alongside the Big Sioux River. The reservation is noticeably better-off than most other Native American reservations, as it is full of large homes with beautiful scenery.
The tribe is hoping that the resort will be able to make money for the community. The money will be used for community services, and to provide a monthly income to members of the tribe. Some services that are already in place include a living community for seniors, a health clinic, and after-school programs.
The tribe hopes that profits from the resort will be able to fund more housing and an addiction treatment center.
However, there is some risk involved. When a new President takes over in 2017, their administration could possibly forbid the cultivation of marijuana on tribal lands. But the Santee Sioux Reservation is willing to take that risk.
That does not mean that there won’t be some strict guidelines that must be followed. For instance, marijuana cannot leave the reservation and every plant must have barcode. Additionally, customers will only be able to purchase one gram of marijuana at a time.
Despite the risks and regulations, the tribe is moving forward with the plan at full-force. If things work out, it could represent the future of Native American tribes.