The Overlooked Native American Marijuana Industry

The decision by voters across the country to approve the use of marijuana for medicinal and recreational use is powering one of the fastest-growing industries in the country.

Analysts expect marijuana sales to reach $6 billion in 2016. Investors are looking for ways to jump into the business, either by funding new cannabis ventures or running them.

And so, it turns out, are Native American tribes.

More than 100 tribes last year approached FoxBarry Farms about the possibility of starting up marijuana businesses. FoxBarry Farms works with tribes on developing casinos.

The Native American Marijuana Industry: From Nixon to Now

Native American tribes across the United State are sovereign nations, a status they earned with treaties signed back in the 18th and 19th centuries. The government granted sovereign status in exchange for the tribes handing over land.

According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, “Tribal sovereignty ensures that any decisions about the tribes with regard to their property and citizens are made with their participation and consent.”

However, according to The Atlantic, those rights were not expanded until President Richard Nixon did so in the 1970s. He told Congress that the government had exerted too much control over the Native Americans. He argued that the tribes should have more control over their resources.

This led to passage, in 1975, of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act. In 1988, rights expanded further with passage of the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which allowed tribes to run casinos on their lands. The business has proven lucrative for some tribes.

These days, the tribes have much more control over what happens on their lands.

The Potential of Marijuana

The growing marijuana industry could potentially provide jobs on Native American lands where unemployment and poverty remain an issue. Therefore, could become a lifeline for many of the unemployed Native Americans on tribal lands.

The first Native American recreational cannabis shop opened late in 2015 in Washington State. The Squaxin Island Tribe runs the shop, called Elevation, about two hours southwest of Seattle, according to Marijuana Business Daily.

The shop opened after reaching an agreement with the state government to collect the same tax on sales that is charged by other shops in the state. Washington is one of four states where voters legalized marijuana for recreational use.

About a month later, the Squamish tribe in Washington opened a marijuana shop in Kitsap County.

More tribes are working on possible shops in Oregon and other locations in Washington. Expect the Native American marijuana industry to continue growing as more Native Americans find it worthwhile to start a marijuana business.