South Dakota Sioux Tribe That Banned Alcohol Is Now Selling Adult-Use Weed
The Oglala Sioux Tribe is one of the only places in the world where adult-use weed is legal, but alcohol is prohibited.
Published on August 12, 2022

Adult-use cannabis may still be illegal in South Dakota, but one Indigenous nation is giving their neighbors a chance to buy some legal bud.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe, located in Pine Ridge in southern South Dakota, originally legalized both medical and recreational pot back in March of 2020. This May, the tribe opened No Worries, the state’s first and only recreational cannabis shop. The business, which also grows and processes its own weed, now draws in anywhere from 100 to 500 customers a day.

“We’re South Dakota’s first recreational marijuana dispensary,” said No Worries manager Ty Eagle Bull to the Native Sun News. “We sell everything from pre-rolls, to flower, to concentrates, to edibles – if you think a dispensary has it, we pretty much have it here.”

But although cannabis is readily available in Pine Ridge, alcohol is nowhere to be found. The Oglala tribe banned the sale and consumption of alcohol more than 100 years ago, and the tribe has held fast to this commitment ever since. These unique laws make the Pine Ridge Reservation one of the only places in the country that allows adults to smoke weed but prohibits them from getting drunk.

The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation also happens to be the only place in South Dakota where recreational cannabis use is legal. A solid majority of state residents voted to legalize medical and recreational pot in 2020, but Governor Kristi Noem conspired with state cops to challenge the legality of the ballot measure. Last February, a state court overturned the adult-use ballot, effectively keeping cannabis prohibition in full effect. Medical marijuana remains legal, but politicians have managed to delay the program's rollout indefinitely.

The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe have already come into conflict with state cops after opening the state's first medical marijuana dispensary. Since opening for business last July, the dispensary has issued over 8,000 medical cannabis cards to tribal members as well as non-native residents of the state. But although medical marijuana is technically legal in the state, local cops have arrested more than 100 non-native people for buying their medicine at the Flandreau dispensary.

Fortunately, the sheriff's office in Pennington County, which borders the Pine Ridge Reservation, has said that its officers haven't arrested anyone for buying weed at No Worries. Which is a good thing, since around half of the store's customers reportedly come from other parts of South Dakota, or from across the Nebraska border. Eagle Bull told the Native Sun News that most customers generally stay in town and get high on the reservation, but some brave souls do take their bud with them when they go.

Other Indigenous nations in the state are looking to the Flandreau and Oglala for inspiration. Stephanie Bolman, a council member for the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe in central South Dakota, told NBC News that her tribe is also thinking about opening its own medical cannabis dispensary. While traveling through the area, Bolman stopped at Pine Ridge in order to check out No Worries as an example of a successful weed business.

“Unfortunately, the health care services provided by the Indian Health Service have failed so many in countless ways,” she told NBC. “It has left many to fend for themselves and endure so much pain and suffering that medical marijuana has proven to be lifesaving.”

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Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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