Native Americans Move Quickly Into Cannabis Industry

As the cannabis industry continues to explode in growth across the United States, many Native Americans are investing in the growing marijuana marketplace. Across America, more tribal-owned cannabis companies are entering the industry with manufacturing, cultivating and retail spaces.

Tribal entrepreneurs have opened almost 45 cannabis retail establishments across eight U.S. states as of January 2023, including tribes who moved quickly to open dispensaries in New York. More tribal-owned cannabis businesses are also expected to open in 2023 as the industry continues to boom.

With 574 Native American tribes recognized by the U.S. government as sovereign nations, there is great potential for the cannabis industry in tribal areas.

Different Laws May Impact Business Opportunities

Laws are different on Native American reservations, so what is allowed in a particular U.S. state might not be the same thing enforced on a reservation located in the same state. This might be more restrictive in some cases, like if recreational marijuana is legal in a state but not allowed on a reservation. But other times, tribes can be more permissive than state laws.

Each tribe can have its own rules about cannabis, so the businesses owned by Native Americans are impacted by those guidelines. Some of the tribal-owned cannabis companies are located exclusively on reservations, while others are not located on tribal land.

The specific products available from tribal-owned businesses are dependent on the laws of each tribe. Many tribal cannabis retailers offer an array of products, like recreational marijuana or CBD items. Others might sell only medical marijuana, while some tribal-owned businesses offer both options.

Business is Really Booming in Certain States

Tribal-owned marijuana businesses are particularly booming in Washington, with 19 cannabis retailers operating 15 stores in the state.

Since Washington was one of the first states in the U.S. to legalize marijuana, the state was already in a good position for Native American entrepreneurs to enter the cannabis market. The state’s leaders also worked with tribal leaders from individual tribes to create plans for the regulation, distribution and taxation of cannabis products.

Nevada is also a hot spot for marijuana companies owned by Native American business owners, with 10 stores owned by eight different tribes. Las Vegas alone has been operating dispensaries owned by Native Americans for years.

Other states that have Native American-owned cannabis companies include California, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, South Dakota and Minnesota.

New York in particular is expected to have multiple tribal-owned cannabis retailers open in 2023, with the Shinnecock Nation planning a cannabis company on Long Island with additional stores along the Montauk Highway. The Oneida Indian Nation and the Seneca Nation are also planning on opening cannabis retail outlets in New York this year.

North Carolina will soon be added to the list of tribal-owned cannabis distributors. The state is also expected to open a medical marijuana facility in 2023, owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. This is an example of where the tribal law will allow the facility even though medicinal marijuana is not legal in North Carolina yet outside of tribal land.

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