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Native Tribes in NY State are Setting the Pace

native tribes ny state setting pace

Native tribes in New York State are making moves when it comes to cannabis legalization. While the state has yet to fully open up its doors to recreational marijuana, a handful of Native American tribes have taken matters into their own hands by opening dispensaries and cultivating their own supply. These tribes are taking advantage of the fact that tribal lands are exempt from state laws, which means they don’t have to adhere to strict guidelines for licensing, testing and packaging as other businesses do. In addition to retail dispensaries, they’ve started agreeing to strategic partnerships with large companies and brands to build out infrastructure.

All About Timing

Earlier this month, the state of New York finally announced rules for adult-use retail dispensaries more than a year after announcing plans for legalization. Needless to say, the path toward legal adult-use marijuana in the state has been all uphill. So with a unique first-mover advantage and a history of being excluded from business opportunities, Native tribes in New York State are opening up dispensaries by taking advantage of a small window of opportunity. While the state is tied up dealing with gray market issues and other priority discussions surrounding legalization, there has been little to no resistance to tribes who are going right ahead and opening up dispensaries on their sovereign land, as state laws don’t apply on reservation lands.

“What’s happening on tribal lands right now, it’s outside our purview. That’s their land,” said Chris Alexander, director of the New York State Office of Cannabis Management

A number of tribes have decided to enter the cannabis industry, with some having already started growing and selling their own product while others are still working on plans for future projects.

“Dispensaries (marijuana shops) are legal if they are on federally recognized, sovereign tribal land,” the New York Office of Cannabis Management said in a December 2021 statement.

Each tribe has had their own unique approach to opening up dispensaries and creating partnerships with larger enterprises to develop the cannabis industry on its land, but the common thread for all of them has been to use this as an opportunity to strengthen their communities.

Native Tribes in NY State are Setting the Pace

Seneca Nation

The Seneca Nation of Indians (SNI) had already been considering entering into the cannabis market even before they opened their first dispensary earlier this year, but they needed more time to develop their facility before they could start manufacturing products like edibles and tinctures. With its location near Buffalo, NY, it was also easier for them to get around some federal regulations by partnering with other businesses based out of Canada; this has helped them bring in significant revenue from outside New York State itself as well!

The Seneca Nation of Indians is building a $40 million packaging and cultivation facility on tribal land. This center will supply products to its dispensaries as well as to the broader market in New York. The tribe has entered into a strategic partnership with Bloomfield Industries Inc., which is a cannabis company based in Canada.

According to Leafly, “Tribal officials estimate there are 100 active dispensaries in the tribe’s Cattaraugus and Allegany territories, which serve medical patients and adult-use buyers driving up to New York to escape Pennsylvania’s prohibitive laws and pricing.”

The SNI has also been able to strike deals with major companies like Constellation Brands Inc., which has invested $4 billion in the cannabis industry since 2017. The nation also entered into an agreement with the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) last year for its members to use medical marijuana for pain management.

Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe

The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe near Plattsburgh has opened up dozens of dispensaries – not all of which are tribe-licensed. There has been some friction within the community regarding unlicensed operators, as they circumvent the tribe’s economic structure, resulting in less income for the tribe as a whole. A list of licensed Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe cannabis sellers can be found here.

The tribe has also partnered with Cannabis Strategies Acquisition Corporation to produce cannabis products, including vapes, edibles, and flower. There will be production facilities on tribal lands, but it also plans to distribute these products in other states where they are sold legally.

Oneida Nation

Oneida Nation has been working diligently to create a model for how tribal governments can participate in the cannabis industry in partnership with local, state and federal authorities. The Nation operates two dispensaries on their land in Madison County, NY, with plans to open another location soon. They are working closely with the state and local officials to make sure that the industry is developed responsibly and ethically.

A deal was struck between the Oneida Indian Nation and another major company, Green Thumb Industries Inc., which provides access to capital for businesses operating within the legal cannabis industry. The investment helped Green Thumb open new dispensaries in New York State as well as expand its operations into other states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Shinnecock Nation

The Shinnecock Nation have tribal territory on Long Island, where they have begun construction on the Little Beach Harvest dispensary. This dispensary is anything but little – it will be a full-scale cannabis operation, including a 60,000-square-foot cultivation, processing, extraction and packaging plant. The best part? It will be 100% Shinnecock-owned, with a focus on the healing properties of cannabis:  “What we’re doing with this sacred plant is going to heal not only the Shinnecock community, but people around the world,” said Chenae Bullock of Little Beach Harvest.

Cayuga Nation

The Cayuga Nation is located in central New York state. Their approach to selling cannabis thus far has been to allow members to sell within gas stations on tribal land.

According to the Cayuga Nation officials via a public statement, “As a sovereign nation, the Cayuga Nation can grow and sell cannabis within its reservation’s boundaries… Our vision for the future of the Cayuga Nation remains focused on bettering the lives of our members, our community, and our neighbors… As we venture forward in our economic development, we remain committed to working closely with local governments to ensure the health and safety of our community.”

Part of their plan for economic development and bettering the lives of their community members includes plans to build a new dispensary near Cayuga Lake.

Setting The Pace In New York State

As the first-mover advantage shows, native tribes have a unique opportunity when it comes to cannabis businesses in New York. Being the first to market and establish your brand can make all the difference in whether your business succeeds or fails, so these tribes have a chance to make a real difference in the economic development of their communities.

The tribes have been able to get a head start on developing brands and building out infrastructure from scratch, but they may soon face competition from other companies who want to be part of this new industry in New York. For now, native tribes in the state have an opportunity to lead the way when it comes to cannabis businesses.

Setting The Pace In New York State

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One Response

  1. This is Government sponsored cannabis , only to benefit those who are already Millionaires, Corrupt and connected to organized crime , the state and the feds … 🐀 . They are essentially cutting out the sovereign legacy markets … and creating government backed monopolies

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