As cannabis legalization unfurls across the United States, a number of Native American tribes are looking to the plant as an economic boon to help their struggling communities. Last week, tribal leaders from California and Washington state met to discuss allowing their lands to be used for pot businesses.
According to USA Today, In attendance were members from the National Indian Gaming Association, several of whom were calling on tribes to welcome the cannabis industry onto their lands. During the meeting, David Vialpando, Southern California’s Santa Ysabel Gaming Commission chairman, pointed to the recent success of the Iipay Nation in San Diego as proof of the economic and health-related benefits of legal marijuana.
Earlier this summer, the tribe revealed their plan to transform a casino parking lot into a series of cannabis production facilities, and they seem to have found their stride in the evergreen market. According to Vialpando, the Iipay Nation leases their tribal lands to marijuana cultivators, while taxing dispensaries and charging regulatory fees in return. The tribe currently has six producers, a testing lab, and a distillation facility on their reservation, none of which are actually operated by Native American tenants.
During the discussion, supporters of the tribal land canna-business also used the Puyallup Tribe in Washington State as an example. Bill Sterud, the chairman of the tribe, shared that recreational marijuana has improved the economic circumstances and health of their people, telling the group that tribal elders have especially benefited from medical use. He believes that other tribes should keep an open mind towards the plant, and focus on educating the community and adhering to state regulations.
While tribal leaders in California and Washington appear eager to get involved with legal pot, other indigenous groups have spurned the market. In Arizona, where medical marijuana has been legal since 2010, Native American tribes have yet to show public interest in the state’s cannabis industry.
However, as tribal leaders continue to mull over the advantages that marijuana could bring to their respective reservations, other aboriginal communities will likely follow suit. With the Iipay Nation and Puyallup Tribe leading the way, it’s only a matter of time before more Native American tribes become a part of the growing cannabis green rush.