Flandreau, S.D. -- The Santee Sioux tribe is wasting no time harnessing the lucrative cannabis market after the U.S. Justice Department said last December it would no longer go after possession or sale of the plant on Native American lands.
The tribe, located in South Dakota, is currently converting a bowling alley into a cannabis “smoking lounge,” which is expected to bring $2 million a month in revenue. The grand opening is set for New Year’s Eve.
“Tribal President Tony Reider envisions a hotspot with a stage for performers, a dance floor, a bar, restaurant, smoking lounge and marijuana dispensary.”
In June, the tribe legalized cannabis on their Flandreau Santee Sioux Reservation. They promptly began construction of a large, high-tech grow facility that is now completed and growing the first crop.
The organic, pesticide-free plants are destined to become the first products in the Santee Sioux’s “budding” business ventures. In September, they announced plans to open the country’s first “marijuana resort.”
Both the lounge and the resort will adhere to strict guidelines so they don’t run afoul of the eight prohibitions in the Justice Department memo, or any state authoritarian figures looking for an excuse to shut down the place. The lounge will ban anyone caught trying to sneak cannabis out of the door, and will enact other measures to prevent “stockpiling.”
The tribe invited South Dakota’s governor and all 105 of its legislatures to visit the grow facility and the soon-to-be smoking lounge, but only five showed up.
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Many politicians are still hypnotized by drug war propaganda. Governor Dennis Daugaard’s chief of staff said the governor “believes this facility violates federal law. He also opposes the legalization of marijuana in any part of South Dakota.”
“I have a very firm belief that marijuana should not be legalized in any way in our state. A tour will not change my mind,” said state Rep. Jim Bollin.
“Whether you agree with marijuana use or not, many have indicated their dislike of the concept of showing their children that it is acceptable,” said state Rep. Leslie Heinemann.
This begs the question of whether Heinemman thinks the same of alcohol, a legal drug that causes thousands of deaths a year.
Some politicians are not so encumbered by primitive mentalities. Lawmakers who visited the Santee Sioux voiced support, embracing the future and the tribe’s entrepreneurial spirit.
“When people ask me, 'Why are you going to see that?' I say, 'It's important, it's my job. Especially with something like this that could impact the economy in the region to the tune of $2 million a month. That is huge. And I think if you aren't here, you should have been,” said Rep. Mathew Wollmann. “I came away today with a positive outlook on the operation, and that's what I'm going to pass on to my constituents.”
“I ran for office because I'm from the Pine Ridge Reservation, and I wanted to make a difference, so tribal issues are always at the forefront for me, and getting the state and the tribes to work together. Because we really are partners - we're more of a partnership with the tribes than the federal government is,” said Rep. Elizabeth May. “I think it's going to be a very good deal for this tribe. I'm excited for them. I'm actually excited for the state.”
Tribal President Tony Reider described his own evolution in thinking that led him to support the cannabis smoking lounge.
“Growing up, I learned marijuana was dangerous, deadly and illegal. I thought marijuana was the devil's medicine. But after educating myself, I learned that no deaths have ever been directly linked to marijuana. And compared to alcohol, it makes people peaceful, not aggressive.”