America's First Marijuana Resort Is About to Open - Thanks to This South Dakota Tribe

South Dakota's Santee Sioux tribe is moving full speed ahead with plans to open the country's first marijuana resort, complete with a smoking lounge that will include a nightclub, alcohol and food service, and arcade games, with slot machines and an outdoor music venue planned down the road. 

The reservation is at Flandreau, about a half-hour from Sioux Falls, the state's largest metropolitan area. 

A handful of other tribes around the country have moved to produce marijuana or at least taken initial steps in that direction since the Justice Department signalled last December that it would not enforce federal marijuana laws on Indian reservations, provided marijuana activities did not lead to organized crime, violence, trafficking to other jurisdiction, or increased youth access. Those are the same principles governing the Obama administration approach to marijuana and medical marijuana in states where it is legal. 

But no tribe has gone so far, so fast. Work is already underway on a grow operation, and the Santee Sioux expect to sell their first joints at a December 31 New Year's Eve party. 

“We want it to be an adult playground,” said tribal president Anthony Reider. “There’s nowhere else in America that has something like this.”

The tribe estimates it could take in $2 million a month in profits, and that has other tribes taking a keen interest. While there are concerns about getting into the pot business, the potential to increase tribal revenues in the same way gambling casinos did beginning three decades ago makes marijuana a tempting option. 

The tribe says it hopes to make money to pay for community services and provide a monthly income for members. Reider added that he hope revenues could fund an addiction treatment center, more housing, and an overhaul for the reservation medical clinic.

“The vast majority of tribes have little to no economic opportunity,” said Blake Trueblood, business development director at the national center for American Indian enterprise development. For those tribes, “this is something that you might look at and say, ‘We’ve got to do something’.”

While a handful of marijuana social clubs have popped up in Colorado, as have pot-themed bed-and-breakfast offers, a legal marijuana resort would be a first in the country. Even in legalization states, smoking in public places is generally forbidden, although efforts are underway to make marijuana social clubs legal in some of them. 

Late reports are that requests for New Year's Eve reservations to take part in legal pot-puffing are starting to pile-up.

"About a hundred people have already called to say they're coming," said Seth Pearman, the tribal attorney. "We're very excited about this process."


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