The legal marijuana industry is already lucrative, and entrepreneurial spirits fortunate enough to live in states that have legalized the plant for both medical and recreational use pounced on the opportunity as soon as the dust cleared in the states' political chambers. But another group's ambition to carve a slice of the pie for themselves is clear; over 100 Native tribes are considering growing and selling marijuana, according to FoxBarry Farms, a management company currently in charge of constructing the U.S.' first marijuana facility on tribal land.
The Kansas-based firm's CEO Barry Broutman told HuffPost of the deluge of interest from Native tribes, ever since the Justice Department ruled in December that they were allowed to grow and sell weed on their sovereign lands so long as they abided by federal statutes charted for the handful of states — including D.C. — where it is legal. Broutman said:
I really underestimated. So many tribes are wanting to do this right now.
FoxBarry Farms, along with Denver-based United Cannabis Corp., just recently signed a contract with California’s Pinoleville Pomo Nation to build a $10 million, 2.5-acre indoor cultivation facility, where they are expected to grow thousands of marijuana plants for medical usage.
And why wouldn't tribes want to get in on it? Limited as it is, the legal marijuana market could provide the 556 federally recognized tribes with a major economic boost. The Justice Department's announcement in December, though welcomed, was also cautious. Some Native American groups expressed wariness at adding yet another substance to existing drug and alcohol problems, a prevalent social issue in their communities, as well as poverty and unemployment.
But the legal pot industry could also present tribes with a new source of income to battle substance abuse. In less than a year, Colorado alone brought in $67.5 million in taxes, licenses and fees on recreational and medical marijuana. The potential proceeds for a tribe growing and selling weed could go into building infrastructure and programs that help combat rife addiction. Tribes selling weed are also exempt from state and federal taxes, reported AP, allowing them to undercut sales outside reservations.
Broutman, who is currently in talks with three other California-based tribes and groups in seven other states, told HuffPost of the economic boon that the weed industry could provide:
Tribes want what any government wants for its people, and that's financial independence. They want to earn their own money, provide education, health care and housing. This new industry allows them to be more economically independent.
For now, Broutman said his company will only work on projects with tribes in states that have legalized both medical and recreational marijuana use.
If an individual visits a reservation, purchases a product, then leaves, they're now in possession of a controlled substance. Although [tribes] still have the ability to do this legally, I don't think it makes sense from a business perspective.
As more states push to legalize pot and the social stigma against the plant very slowly but surely erodes, surely Native tribes will only benefit — under strict regulations, of course. As Seattle attorney Anthony Broadman, whose firm represents Western tribal governments, told AP:
If tribes can balance all the potential social issues, it could be a really huge opportunity.
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