Pubdate: Tue, 10 Nov 2015
Source: Denver Post (CO)
Copyright: 2015 The Associated Press
Author: Regina Garcia Cano, The Associated Press


Sioux Falls, S.D. (AP) - A South Dakota American Indian tribe that 
sought to open the nation's first marijuana resort burned its crop 
after federal officials signaled a potential raid, the tribal 
president said Monday.

Flandreau Santee Sioux president Anthony Reider told The Associated 
Press the tribe had three weeks of discussions with authorities that 
culminated with a meeting in Washington that included a Justice 
Department official and U.S. Attorney for South Dakota Randolph Seiler.

Reider said the tribe wasn't told a raid was imminent - only that one 
was possible if the government's concerns weren't addressed. He said 
the main holdup is whether the tribe can sell marijuana to 
non-Indians, along with the origin of the seeds used for its crop.

Calls by the AP to the Justice Department's Office of Tribal Justice 
weren't immediately returned. A spokesman for Seiler said he would 
have no comment.

The tribe had planned to open a lounge selling marijuana on New 
Year's Eve. It was the first tribe in South Dakota to legalize the 
drug following the U.S. Department of Justice's decision last year to 
allow tribes to do so on tribal land. The tribe hired Denver-based 
consulting firm Monarch America to teach them the basics of growing marijuana.

Reider said the tribe made the decision Friday to destroy its 
marijuana and burned it Saturday. He said tribal officials wanted to 
avoid a raid that might have damaged equipment or the facility but 
also wanted to demonstrate good faith as it continues conversations 
with officials in hopes of resuming the project.

"We just felt it would be best to go in with a clean slate to look 
for answers on how to proceed so that all sides are comfortable with 
it," he said.

He said more talks are scheduled this week with Seiler and with state 
Attorney General Marty Jackley. Jackley said over the weekend that 
the decision to destroy the crop was "in the best interest of both 
tribal and nontribal members."

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. Tim Purdon, a Minneapolis attorney who served as the 
U.S. attorney for North Dakota from 2010-2015, said federal officials 
can raid marijuana operations at any time because cannabis remains 
illegal under federal law. The new Justice Department policy doesn't 
change that, he said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom