Pubdate: Sat, 19 Dec 2015
Source: Register-Guard, The (OR)
Copyright: 2015 The Associated Press
Author: Gosia Wozniacka, The Associated Press


PORTLAND - Members of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs have 
approved a plan to build a facility to grow marijuana on their 
reservation in Central Oregon and sell it at tribe-owned stores 
outside the reservation.

The vote comes a year after a U.S. Department of Justice policy 
indicated tribes could grow and sell pot under the same guidelines as 
states that opt to legalize. The tribe is one of the first in the 
country to enter the pot business.

Tribal officials said more than 80 percent of tribal voters favored 
the proposal: 1,450 of the 3,300 eligible voters turned out for the 
referendum Thursday.

Warm Springs' plan is to build a 36,000-square-foot greenhouse to 
grow and process the cannabis. Officials expect the project will 
create more than 80 jobs. Net revenue from the three proposed 
tribal-owned retail would top $26 million annually.

The tribes say they will enter into an agreement with state agencies 
to ensure testing and other regulations are consistent with state 
law. Sales are slated to start in winter 2016.

"Our main purpose is to create jobs on the reservation and produce 
revenue for the tribes," said Don Sampson, of the tribes' economic 
development corporation. "We think we will have a model other tribes 
will look to as they investigate this business and industry."

The proposal doesn't change the law that bans marijuana possession on 
the reservation, about 90 miles southeast of Portland.

Many tribes have opposed legalization and marijuana sales because of 
the potential to compound alcohol and drug problems already present 
on reservations. Some tribes, such as the Yakama Nation in 
Washington, outright banned marijuana.

But at least a half dozen tribes this year have legalized marijuana 
on their reservations or have pursued marijuana projects, hoping to 
bolster their tribal economies with the revenue.

Last month, the Squaxin Island Tribe in Washington opened what is 
believed to be the first retail marijuana store on a reservation. The 
tribe isn't growing the marijuana but is buying it wholesale from the 
state--regulated system used by the recreational pot industry.

Washington allows for medical and recreational marijuana use, and the 
Squaxin entered into a compact with the state that sets guidelines 
for taxing pot sales. Another Washington tribe, the Suquamish, also 
has signed a tribal compact with the state for a marijuana store. 
That store sill is under construction.

Other tribes also are considering the move. The Passamaquoddy Tribe 
in Maine signed a letter of intent in September with a medical 
marijuana management and consulting company to build a cultivation 
facility on tribal land. The tribe wants to use the facility to make 
industrial hemp, not marijuana, though officials said they might 
consider expanding operations when laws around marijuana change.

And leaders of the Omaha Tribe in Nebraska are considering land in 
western Iowa for growing marijuana. That's after tribal members 
approved three referendums last month giving the Tribal Council the 
authority to legalize marijuana for medicinal and recreational use 
and to grow plants for industrial hemp. The tribe will launch a study 
will examine whether the business would make financial sense.

Some tribes have faced challenges in the pot business - especially 
those within states where marijuana isn't legal.

The Flandreau Santee Sioux in South Dakota - a state where both 
medical and recreational marijuana is prohibited - decided in 
November to burn its cannabis crop amid fears it could face a federal 
raid. The tribe was the first tribal nation to legalize recreational 
marijuana and had big plans to open the country's first marijuana 
resort - complete with smoking lounge, nightclub, bar and private 
rooms for medical marijuana patients - on its reservation north of Sioux Falls.

Tribal officials said the main challenges centered on whether the 
tribe could sell marijuana to non--Indians, along with issues over 
where the seed used for planting originated. The tribe vowed to move 
forward with its operation in the future.

In October, federal agents raided the Menominee Nation's reservation 
in Wisconsin, a state where marijuana is illegal, eradicating 30,000 
cannabis plants. Tribal leaders said the plants were intended for 
research into growing hemp, but authorities believed the tribe was 
growing pot. The Menominee Nation has since sued two federal agencies 
over the raid.

And this summer in northern California, where medical marijuana is 
legal, federal authorities raided the tribal cannabis operations of 
the Alturas and Pit River Indian rancherias, with agents seizing 
12,000 marijuana plants and some process marijuana.

The regional U.S. attorney's office said in a statement that the two 
neighboring tribes planned to distribute the pot off tribal lands and 
the large-scale operations may have been financed by a foreign third-party.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom