Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Tribal-Owned Grow Operations And Casinos Could Dramatically Shift The Marijuana Industry

A recent partnership between a cannabis advisory firm and MCW, a business owned by former Seminole Tribe chairman James Billie, could potentially prove as a landmark first step in changing the marijuana industry.

Last week Nevada-based Electrum Partners and MCW partnered to help assist Native American tribes across country in establishing medical marijuana ventures. The South Florida partnership believes they hold a distinct advantage through sovereign land. Billie believes marijuana business could soon be “bigger than bingo.”

“[W]e are bringing the benefits of our tribal sovereignty to the cannabis industry and the cannabis industry leadership is partnering with us to enable the next huge economic development opportunity for the Native American Community,” Chief Jim Billie said in a statement.

As the Miami Herald indicated, this could foreshadow tribal communities establishing marijuana businesses in Florida. Unlike traditional cannabis players, these tribal communities wouldn’t require state licenses and wouldn’t be restricted by such state regulations. However, the partners have designated they will specifically target “areas where it’s already legal and won’t be controversial,” as Billie told the Miami Herald.

In 2014 the Department of Justice issued the Wilkinson Memorandum, which gave tribal communities the freedom to engage in marijuana-related activities. In addition to the Obama administration’s 2013 Cole Memorandum—a list of temporary guidelines intended to prevent federal persecution in states that have legalized marijuana— the Wilkinson memo suggested to tribes they were protected against prosecution to grow and cultivate marijuana on their private lands.

However such operations haven’t proceeded so smoothly. North Dakota’s Santee Sioux tribe made national headlines when they announced plans to create a marijuana resort that would double as an “adult playground.” The Sioux would eventually suspend the venture and burn off crop estimated to be worth millions as federal agents hinted at a possible raid. Their consultants currently face criminal charges.

Meanwhile, Pinoleville Pomo Nation claimed they were the first tribe to grow and cultivate marijuana on tribal land following the Wilkinson memo. But the tribe was later raided by a local sheriff’s office who stated they had overstepped state regulations.

This has led to some within the cannabis industry to be skeptical regarding tribal-owned marijuana operations. But as Electrum President Leslie Bocskor indicated, these businesses that have failed involve tribes over-reaching and misunderstanding what the law allows. If tribes play by the rules, the lucrative possibilities are massive. Without tax obligations and tying sovereign land to the cannabis industry, tribes could hold an incredible financial advantage.

In addition to advising tribes entering the cannabis space, the partnership will also assist with funding these ventures. If they are successful, it could indicate a giant change for the rest of the cannabis industry.

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