First Native American Cannabis Business May Come to Oregon
The Warm Springs Tribe is readying to embrace marijuana culture.
Published on November 26, 2015

Photo: Cannasos

The Confederated Tribe of Warm Springs, consisting of the Warm Springs, Wasco, and Paiute Native American Tribes, live on the Warm Springs Reservation just south of Mt. Hood and north of Bend, Oregon. The business arm of the tribe, Warm Springs Ventures, has researched the potential benefits of incorporating cannabis into their economy.

The tribe will vote on a cannabis referendum, which will take place on December 17th, that would allow the cultivation of cannabis on their Warm Springs reservation for sale in nearby Bend and Portland, Oregon. It would also allow for the authorization of “the production, sale, wholesale, and retail sale of industrial hemp for future development.”

If the referendum passes, the Warm Springs Tribe may be the first large Native American cannabis business to legally grow and sell cannabis in the United States.

The referendum will need to pass with a majority vote, but there are some stipulations attached. It must win by a 51 per cent majority in order to proceed and has to be voted on by at least one third of the population. There are 3,313 eligible voters in the Warm Springs Tribe currently, which means approximately 1,110 voters must cast their vote for a win to be considered valid.

The operation would consist of three retail stores and a growing location: a 36,000 square foot “Cultivation Greenhouse Facility” secured with steel walls and controlled access. Conservation is important to the Warm Springs Tribe, and accordingly the facility is being planned for low water use and maximum sun exposure, while not exceeding 5 acres.

The Warm Springs Tribe plans on installing retail locations in the greater Portland area and Bend, a popular tourist destination. All three planned locations will be located off of the reservation itself. The referendum explicitly states that the sale of cannabis will not be authorized on the Warm Springs reservation, where personal use of cannabis is not allowed.

Based on similar operations in Colorado, adjusted to the current Oregon market, Warm Springs Ventures estimates a net profit of $11.7 million in 2017, the first year of sales, and predict a jump to $26.1 million the following year, with a seven year total of $173.6 million. This would be a huge boost for the reservation’s economy which will receive an estimated $8.75 million in 2016 for all of their current ventures: the Indian Head Casino, Power and Water, Composite Products, Kah-Nee-Ta, Credit and Ventures.

Therefore, the cannabis project would triple the income of the tribe in 2017 and quadruple it in 2018, based on the estimates given.

Warm Springs Ventures also predicts the cannabis business will create at least 85 new jobs for the tribe. From entry level jobs, such as budtenders and flowering technicians, to mid and high level jobs: store managers, an operations manager, and leads for all the low level positions, just to name a few.

The profits and jobs created by incorporating cannabis into their economy would help repair the revenue declines and budget cuts the tribe has been experiencing for the past five years. These jobs would remain within the tribe and would be fully owned and operated by the tribe as well.

If the Warm Springs Tribe votes in favor of the referendum, the cannabis project will inject much needed funds into their economy, revitalizing the reservation. For other Native American tribes suffering from a poor economy, the referendum may well end up inspiring them to explore cannabis cultivation on their own reservations.

Amber Finnegan
Amber Finnegan is a political and lifestyle blogger and photographer. She has a BA in History from San Francisco State University and currently lives in Portland, Oregon. She is a staunch believer in legalization of cannabis and encourages socially responsible living. Follow her on Twitter @i8veggies.
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