Native Americans Ahead of State in Selling Recreational Marijuana in New York

Demonstrating an enterprising spirit, Native American tribes in New York have moved out in front of the state government when it comes to selling recreational marijuana in New York. From wooden shacks along the road to dispensaries in gas stations, they have started selling legal weed to a new market in New York.

Tribe leaders have taken advantage of what the New York Times called the state’s “leisurely rollout” of licenses to sell legal  recreational marijuana under the state’s regulated market. The state legislature approved legal adult-use cannabis in 2021.

While the state sets a deliberate pace, Native American tribes have raced ahead. They remain the only source of legal recreational marijuana in New York.

Tribes Saw the Opportunity Immediately

The Times reports that there are as many as 100 dispensaries now operating on tribal lands across the state of New York. It’s a trend that became apparent as far back as the summer of 2021, when  City and State New York reported that  “while the state dawdles on pot regulations, Native Americans in New York will likely begin sales before the end of the year.”

Tribal lands operate as sovereign nations that have exclusive power over members and territory. They typically adhere to state laws, and they remain subject to the limitations of federal law. However, with New York legalizing cannabis and the federal government sticking with the plan to allow states control over legal cannabis within their borders, tribes have taken advantage.

One of the fastest adapters was the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe in upstate New York, near the Canadian border. They already have 12 dispensaries operating on tribal lands.

The Devil’s Lettuce is On Sale

While touring rural western New York, the Times reported finding wooden shacks “hawking ounces of Devil’s Lettuce for $80.” It’s an apparent reference to one of the 250 nicknames for cannabis the Drug Enforcement Agency revealed in a report from 2018. Others include Alice B. Toklas, Burritos Verdes, Green Goblin and Smoochy Moochy Poochy.

The Times also found gas stations offering one free joint for every 10 gallons of gas purchased.

There are more options for cannabis consumers coming soon. One of the biggest projects comes from the  Shinnecock Indian Nation, which plans to open a 5,000-square-foot dispensary in early 2023 called Little Beach Harvest. The dispensary is located in Southampton, New York, on the Montauk Highway on Long Island.

The cannabis projects included both big and small tribes. For example, the smaller Cayuga tribe in central New York plans to open a new dispensary  southwest of Syracuse on Cayuga Lake, one of the Finger Lakes. And the Times reported that the Oneida Nation, which operates the Turning Stone casino and resort, plans to  open a 50,000-square-foot cannabis cultivation and production facility.

In one of the biggest projects, plans call for expanding the Good Leaf Dispensary that operates on Seneca Nation land out of a gas station in Salamanca. The owners are currently converting an old Holiday Inn Express hotel into a cannabis hotel called the White Pine Lodge. The lodge will offer shuttle service to the nearby Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino and video games in a consumption lounge.

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