Tiny South Dakota Tribe To Open A Marijuana Resort — And It May Be The First Of Many

Want to smoke marijuana while playing some arcade games and listening to outdoor music? The small Santee Sioux tribe of South Dakota is working on making that possible — they’re turning a bowling alley into a first class pot resort.

“We want it to be an adult playground,” tribal President Anthony Reider told the Associated Press. “There’s nowhere else in American that has something like this.”

In fact, their resort will be the first of its kind and could pave the way for more — the Passamaquoddy in Maine and Suquamish in Washington are looking to get into the business, too — as Natives all over the country look to broaden their economic horizons beyond casinos.

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So far, the plans include a smoking lounge (under very strict security, by the way) with a nightclub, arcade games, bar and food service, slot machines, and an outdoor music venue.

The marijuana will be grown on the reservation at an indoor farm and sold right on site; it’s actually illegal in South Dakota, so smokers can only light up on the rez. Customers can only buy a gram at a time (enough for two to four joints), which will go for $12.50 to $15 — the going rate in Sioux Falls.

They are now learning how to grow marijuana and are starting with 30 different strains with the names “Gorilla Glue,” “Shot Glass,” and “Big Blue Cheese.” Because it’s tricky to grow — the plant likes a certain temperature, pH level, can get moldy, and hates tap water — Monarch America is giving the South Dakota tribe some lessons in weed growing.

The company’s vice president and chief grower, Jonathan Hunt, said such an operation can be “clean, efficient, proficient, safe and secure.”

“This is not a fly-by-night operation. We are not looking to do anything shady.”

And shadiness may be of some concern to the surrounding community, especially the possibility that the drug could end up in the hands of kids. But tribal attorney Seth Pearman told CBC News that the facility is secure and the only place people can smoke marijuana legally, not just in South Dakota but on the reservation.

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So how are they able to grow and sell pot in the first place? After all, while legal in a handful of states, it’s still prohibited by federal law. But the U.S. Justice Department has a new policy, by which a Native tribe and grow and sell marijuana under the same conditions as states; it doesn’t mean all tribes can now legally get into the business and open a resort.

But many of them may follow in the Santee Sioux’s footsteps. Only home to 400 members, the rez lies on 5,000 acres of land and is home to a casino, 120-room hotel, and a buffalo ranch. Business ventures like slot machines or pot resort can be a boon to Natives, who have little options for economic opportunity, said business development director Blake Trueblood.

This resort could generate up to $2 million a month in profit after its planned opening on New Year’s Eve. And that money can translate into serious social change: casino profits already pay for community services, income for members of the tribe, and services like senior living, a clinic, and community center.

The $2 million a month will pay for more housing, an addiction treatment center, possibly a 24/7 daycare, and a clinic renovation.

And with all that money, and all the good it can do for Natives, it’s no wonder this South Dakota tribe is getting into the weed industry. As Pearman suggested — it’s a no-brainer.

“It’s a booming market, kind of like Indian gaming back in the ’90s.”

[Photo Courtesy David McNew / Getty Images]