Marijuana on South Dakota Reservation: What you need to know

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Flandreau, S.D. (KSFY) - Last Thursday, the executive committee on the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe approved the use of recreational marijuana on tribal lands, becoming the first U.S. tribe to do so in a state where marijuana is still illegal.

The Flandreau Santee Sioux says the tribe has been seriously considering the marijuana issue ever since the U.S. Justice Department delivered the Cole Memorandum, opening up the possibility of pot on reservations last December.

Now that the Flandreau tribe is the first in the nation to approve the use of marijuana, many are questioning how this will work.

"The whole city in general is wondering about what's actually going to be going on, the details on it what's involved in it, can they go into city of Flandreau, a lot of details haven't been released," Flandreau mayor Mark Bonrud said.

Monday, tribal leaders outlined the marijuana ordinance they approved last week. They say consumption will only be allowed on the reservation, and will be limited to one gram per person, the equivalent of one joint.


Tribal leaders say anyone over the age of 21 will be allowed to come onto tribal lands to use marijuana at a designated facility. The ordinance also outlines the use of medicinal marijuana for adults and minors. The tribe says anyone with a doctor's approval and parental consent for minors will be able to use specialized medicinal marijuana on sight.

Tribal attorney Seth Pearman says the tribe's marijuana law greatly differs from Colorado, where people are allowed to purchase large quantities of marijuana to consume or even grow from home.

"Tribal members who live on the reservation can't consume it in their home; they can't purchase it to give to children. We will still utilize the same criminal codes we did before for people who violate our ordinance," Pearman said.


Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribal President Tony Reider says the tribe will be partnering with a national supplier to grow and produce marijuana at a secure facility on the reservation. Reider says they will be announcing their national pot partner soon, saying the company will help the reservation produce a safe and secure product.

"We want to make sure we do everything right to be able to protect the public from the potential if it getting out at all and maintain control and compliance," Reider said.

"We've ordered cameras and we have a third party security company we're looking into; we're doing all of these things to ensure nothing leaves our facility," Pearman said.

Reider also says the product itself will be safer than the kind of marijuana that is sold on the street. Right now the tribe estimates about 30 pounds of black market pot is already being sold in the Flandreau area each week.

"Right now you don't know how the product is grown, if they're getting it illegally in the area…our strands are safer, they're not grown with chemicals, and it is 100 percent pure marijuana, with different strains grown specifically for the medical side," Reider said.


Reider says the executive committee decided to approve the use of recreational marijuana on the reservation as a new economic opportunity for the tribe.

"The positives are revenue, money and economic development…were talking millions of dollars. It is a great revenue producing machine and opportunity," Reider said.

The tribe says it is striving to be ahead of the curve, so if marijuana is legalized in the state or nationwide, they'll already have a supply in place to begin mass distribution.

"We always take every opportunity that hits our table to keep the tribe moving. A lot of times it's in areas that we use our sovereignty to be able to do that and take advantage of these types of opportunities, because being ahead of the curve is always more profitable than being behind it," Reider said.


The question still remains - will it be legal for South Dakotans and other non-tribal members to use marijuana on the reservation, even though it's still illegal in South Dakota?

"State law will still apply to any non-Indians with in the state of South Dakota, and state law will also apply to any tribal members that may use marijuana within Indian country and then step off Indian country, so it does create some potential confusion," South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said.

Jackley says while he respects the tribe's sovereign right to make and pass laws that govern their tribal members within Indian country, it is also important to recognize that South Dakota state law prohibits the use or consumption of marijuana on any state land.

"It will remain law enforcement's priority to enforce state laws on non-tribal lands, and also our highways," Jackley said.

Many states bordering Colorado are also asking the same question. Jackley says right now the federal court system is considering the question in a lawsuit Nebraska and Oklahoma have filed against Colorado. Jackley says he will be closely monitoring the court's decision.


Jackley says law enforcement is also concerned about the possible impacts on public safety, like impaired driving on South Dakota's roadways and marijuana getting in the hands of minors.

Tribal leaders say they're also concerned about these issues, but they plan to address the use of marijuana just like alcohol.

Reider says the tribe is hoping to educate children about the use of marijuana as well as other drugs and alcohol.

"Drug driving is a concern for us much like drunk driving," Pearman said. 'We will do everything we can to ensure the public is safe…of course we have the hotel right here."

Pearman says while they will encourage marijuana patrons under the influence to stay at the hotel, the tribe wants the public to know the use of marijuana will not be allowed at the Royal River Casino.