A vote this week could bring legal medical and recreational marijuana to a South Dakota Indian reservation, a move that tribal leaders say would be an economic boon.
Oglala Sioux Tribe members will vote Tuesday on the measure; they will also vote whether to permit alcohol at the tribe’s casino. Should the weed proposal pass, the Pine Ridge Reservation, located in western South Dakota, the tribe would be invoking its sovereignty. Marijuana remains illegal on the federal level, and South Dakota has not yet joined other states in legalizing either medical or recreational marijuana.
According to the Associated Press, successful passage of the proposal would make the Oglala Sioux, also known as Oglala Lakota, the “only tribe to set up a cannabis market in a state where it’s otherwise illegal.”
Voters in the state will, however, decide on two separate ballot measures this November to legalize medical and recreational pot.
Julian Bear Runner, the president of the tribe, characterized the marijuana proposal as something that would “jump-start” the local economy, according to the Associated Press.
Pine Ridge is the poorest county in the United States.
“We need an internal, regenerative, self-sustaining solution,” Chase Iron Eyes, a spokesman for the president, told the Associated Press.
Ricky Gray Grass, a tribal leader, told the Associated Press that it will draw visitors to the reservation.
“People will be coming in from all directions to get their medicine,” he said.
“I think it’s going to win by a landslide,” added Gray Grass.
Other Native American Communities Considering Cannabis
Late last year, the Eastern Shoshone announced that it authorized a committee to study the economic impact and development of potentially bringing hemp and medical marijuana to its Wyoming reservation.
And last spring, the Bay Mills Indian Community became the first reservation in Michigan to legalize recreational marijuana, a move that came six months after voters in the state approved a measure legalizing recreational pot.
The Associated Press noted that a South Dakota tribe has tried to go this route before. In 2015, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe tried to open a marijuana resort in a bid for tourism to the reservation, but wound up burning its crop when it appeared that the feds were planning a raid.
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