South Dakota attorney general Marty Jackley has decided to charge two cannabusiness consultants who worked to advise the Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe with the opening of a marijuana friendly resort. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice made a new policy that allows Native American tribes to cultivate and sell marijuana under the same guidelines as states that have legalized recreational cannabis. Under the new policy, the tribe began plans to open a resort that would have a nightclub, outdoor music venue, a smoking lounge and restaurants. Tribe President Anthony Reider said they wanted it to be an “adult playground”. The tribe were predicting to bring in about $2 million a month from the resort that would have gone towards community services and giving Santee Sioux members income.
An Initially Fortuitous Exchange
The tribe hired Denver based company Monarch America’s chief executive Eric Hagen and it’s vice president and cultivation expert Jonathon Hunt. The 2 were hired consultants in guiding the tribe through the process of entering cannabusiness, assisting with cultivation as well as general advice. The tribe planted their first seeds on a 10,000 foot, indoor growing facility last September.
The Aborted Plans
Federal officials had expressed the potential of a raid due to concerns about marijuana being sold to people who are not Native American and questions about where the tribe were getting their seeds from. After hearing about the potential of undergoing a federal raid, the tribe burned the crop in November and abandoned their plans. Tribal officials attempted to talk with local and federal officials, including meeting with Jackley, in the hopes they would still be able to resume their plans, but they weren’t able to come to any arrangements and there are no plans to continue with the project. They now plan to use the greenhouse to grow vegetables.
Charging the Cannabusiness Consultants
Jackley, who has been fighting against all drugs for many years, was not happy with this conclusion of the events. South Dakota authorities have no jurisdiction over tribal lands, so Jackley was not able to bring any charges against tribe members involved in initiating the project. Unable to arrest any of the Santee Sioux tribe members, he moved instead on charging the consultants. Hagen, of Sioux Falls, has been charged with conspiracy to possess over 10 pounds of cannabis, possession of over pounds of cannabis and attempted possession of over 10 pounds of cannabis. Hunt, of Colorado, has been charged with conspiracy to possess cannabis.
Jackley, who is originally from South Dakota, but splits his time between his home state and a home he occupies in Denver, is considering running for governor in 2018. The move to charge the consultants, may be an attempt to boost his political reputation as well as frighten anyone else who might consider becoming a cannabusiness consultant to tribes within the state.
This kind of federal, state and tribal law entanglement has scared tribes off from getting involved with growing marijuana. There is a constant threat of federal interference at the prospect of any of the marijuana being sold to people outside of the tribe. With federal laws as they stand, the charged executives of Monarch America may be facing an uphill battle.