Pubdate: Mon, 05 Oct 2015
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2015 Associated Press
Note: Seldom prints LTEs from outside it's circulation area.
Author: Regina Garcia Cano, Associated Press


S. Dakota Reservation's Marijuana Resort Could Serve As Model for Others

The Santee Sioux tribe has already proven its business acumen, 
running a successful casino, a 120-room hotel and a 240-head buffalo 
ranch on the plains of South Dakota.

But those enterprises have not been immune to competition and the 
lingering effects of the Great Recession, so the small tribe of 400 
is undertaking a new venture - opening the nation's first marijuana 
resort on its reservation in Flandreau, S.D. The experiment could 
offer a new moneymaking model for tribes nationwide seeking economic 
opportunities beyond casinos.

Santee Sioux leaders plan to grow their own pot and sell it in a 
smoking lounge that includes a nightclub, arcade games, bar and food 
service, and eventually, slot machines and an outdoor music venue. 
"We want it to be an adult playground," tribal President Anthony 
Reider said. "There's nowhere else in America that has something like this."

The project, according to the tribe, could generate up to $2 million 
a month in profit, and work is already under way on the growing 
facility. The first joints are expected to go on sale Dec. 31 at a 
New Year's Eve party.

The legalization of marijuana on the Santee Sioux land came in June, 
months after the Justice Department outlined a new policy that allows 
Indian tribes to grow and sell marijuana under the same conditions as 
some states.

Many tribes are hesitant to jump into the pot business. And not 
everyone in Flandreau, about 45 miles north of Sioux Falls, believes 
in the project. But the profit potential has attracted the interest 
of many other tribes, just as the debut of slot machines and table 
games did almost 27 years ago.

"The vast majority of tribes have little to no economic opportunity," 
said Blake Trueblood, business development director at the National 
Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. For those tribes, 
"this is something that you might look at and say, 'We've got to do 
something.' "

Flandreau's indoor marijuana farm is set against a backdrop of 
soybean fields. If not for a security booth outside, the building 
could pass as an industrial warehouse.

Inside, men are working to grow more than 30 different strains of the 
finicky plant, including those with names like "Gorilla Glue," "Shot 
Glass" and "Big Blue Cheese."

Pot is prone to mildew and mold, picky about temperature and pH level 
and intolerant to tap water. So the Santee Sioux have hired 
Denver-based consulting firm Monarch America to teach them the basics.

"This is not a fly-by-night operation," said Jonathan Hunt, Monarch's 
vice president and chief grower. 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 marijuana resort open to the public has never been tried in the 
U.S. Even in states such as Colorado and Washington, where pot is 
fully legal, consumption in public places is generally forbidden, 
although pro-pot activists are seeking to loosen those restrictions. 
Colorado tolerates a handful of private marijuana clubs.

The little-known Flandreau Santee Sioux Reservation is on 5,000 acres 
of gently rolling land along the Big Sioux River and houses have 
well-trimmed lawns.

The Santee Sioux hope to use pot in the same way that many tribes 
rely on casinos - to make money for community services and to provide 
a monthly income to tribal members. Reider hopes marijuana profits 
can fund more housing, an addiction treatment center and an overhaul 
of the clinic.

The prosperity that marijuana could bring to Indian Country comes 
with huge caveats. The drug remains illegal under federal law, and 
only Congress can change its status.

Meanwhile, tribes must follow strict security measures. The marijuana 
cannot leave the reservation, and every plant in Flandreau's growing 
facility will have a bar code. After being harvested and processed, 
it will be sold in sealed 1-gram packages for $12.50 to $15 - about 
the same price as the illegal market in Sioux Falls, according to law 

Garcia Cano writes for The Associated Press.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom