Shinnecock Nation Tribal Chairman Bryan Polite on Monday confirmed that tribe members had approved two measures last week that will pave the way for the sale of recreational use marijuana on the tribe’s territory.
One vote, which passed 114-30, authorized the tribe to adopt the framework for a future ordinance that will allow adult-use cannabis licensing for a tribally owned business. A second measure, which would allow tribe members to apply for individual licenses to grow marijuana for sale, also passed, but by a closer vote of 94-50.
“It’s a good first step to see if the community wanted to move forward with licensing for recreational sales,” Mr. Polite said, adding that he was optimistic the tribe would be able to complete work on the ordinances necessary for the initiatives to move forward by the end of the year.
He said the tribally owned business would operate under Little Beach Harvest, which is also overseeing the launch of a medicinal cannabis business in the coming months.
The second measure will give individual tribe members the opportunity to apply for licenses that will allow them to grow marijuana for sale “and develop a revenue stream for their families,” Mr. Polite added.
New York State recently legalized marijuana for personal use and has given local municipalities until the end of the year to decide whether they want to opt out of allowing retails sales in their communities. Mr. Polite said as a sovereign nation, Shinnecock was not subject to state law and could have launched its own marijuana business, provided all facets of it, from growth to sales, took place on Shinnecock territory. But, he said, the tribe wanted to proceed cautiously.
“We have taken a very responsible approach,” he said, adding the tribe would work with local and state government as well as with law enforcement as the initiative moves forward.
“We want to make sure we get it right,” he said. “It won’t be simple, because nothing is ever simple, but we should be able to get a quick turn-around by the end of the year” on the ordinance.
Mr. Polite conceded that some members of the tribe are opposed to the idea of recreational pot sales.
“It is a very controversial issue. We’ve obviously had issues with drug dependency,” he said, “and cannabis has always had that ‘Reefer Madness’ connotation attached to it.”
Although he conceded that not all those members’ concerns could be alleviated, Mr. Polite stressed that the tribe would oversee the program closely. “This is not going to be a free-for-all,” he said.
The vote on marijuana sales is one more facet of the tribe’s wide-ranging effort to develop its economy.
The tribe recently announced a partnership with TILT Holdings for its cannabis businesses and has been planning to build a medicinal cannabis dispensary and wellness center as well as cultivate its own crop of marijuana, Mr. Polite said. He said he hoped that business could be up and running by next spring.
In the meantime, the tribe has also announced plans to develop a casino on its territory in Southampton and to develop a hotel and conference center as well as a gas station and convenience store with access from Route 27 on its Westwoods property in Hampton Bays.