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New York’s Cayuga Nation To Sell Recreational Cannabis

New York’s Cayuga Nation Native American tribe is preparing to launch an adult-use cannabis cultivation enterprise, months before state-licensed recreational pot retailers begin serving customers.

Last year’s lawmakers passed the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act. This law made it legal to possess marijuana for adult use in September. Regulators are working on adult-use cannabis business licensing and management. Retailers will not open before spring 2023.

Native American tribal governments are sovereign states, but they have the authority to regulate marijuana production and sale on tribal lands. The Shinnecock Nation, a Long Island tribe that produces cannabis, announced last summer it would begin a business with CBD. Now, the Cayuga nation, already home to Arrowhead Hemp CBD and hemp, has also begun exploring recreational cannabis.

Freeman Klopott, a spokesperson for the state Office of Cannabis Management, says that New York’s tribal nations have the right to enact and implement their own cannabis regulatory structure.

“Native Americans living on federally recognized, sovereign tribal land are legally allowed to operate dispensaries that are not regulated under the New York State cannabis law,” Klopott told Politico.

He also said the state “has the ability to enter into agreements with tribes through tribal compacts to integrate them into the state program if all parties can agree to terms,” although no tribes have established such an agreement.

Tribal lawyer Lee Redeye said that state regulators’ delay in implementing cannabis legalization presents an opportunity for tribal governments to get a head start on the recreational cannabis market.

“There’s a considerable amount of money to be made in the industry, especially with New York lagging behind,” said Redeye.

Cultivation Facility under Development

The Cayuga Nation has decided to exercise its authority to self-regulate cannabis and is currently creating a cultivation facility at Gakwiyo Garden, the tribe’s 100-acre agricultural development in Seneca Falls, New York. Gakwiyo Garden has a 3000 square foot greenhouse and more than 35 crops.

According to reports, the new indoor cannabis cultivation facility will have 15,000 sq. feet of growing space. The facility’s cannabis will be processed and packaged at an unspecified location on tribal land. Tribal members are relying on this new venture to generate revenue and provide employment opportunities.

“Developing our cannabis business is the next step in expanding and diversifying the Cayuga Nation’s economic opportunities and providing long-lasting benefits to the community,” the Cayuga Nation of New York said in a statement to the Cornell Sun.

Bergmann Associates of Rochester has been hired by the tribe as an architect to overhaul the Gakwiyo Garden greenhouse. The project’s construction is scheduled to start in the early part of this year and will be complete by 2023. Maria Stagliano, a spokesperson for the Cayuga Nation, said that the tribe has hired Jake Brewer, the former head grower for a Colorado-based cannabis company, to head the Cayuga Nation’s cannabis operation.

The Cayuga Nation stated in a statement that they would cooperate with local and state officials to make sure the smooth launch of their recreational marijuana venture.

“Our vision for the future of the Cayuga Nation remains focused on bettering the lives of our members, our community, and our neighbors,” the Cayuga Nation said in their statement. “As we venture forward in our economic development, we remain committed to working closely with local governments to ensure the health and safety of our community.”

Customers of tribal cannabis businesses will be able to avoid the state’s 9% cannabis excise tax tacked onto New York’s sales tax rate of 4%. Redeye, however, fears that the state might eventually tax cannabis sales on tribal land. Federal court proceedings are likely to follow.

“My suspicion is that, eventually, the state will seek to try to tax those sales,” Redeye said. “New York state is always greedy. New York state will never stop trying to get revenue from the tribes. It has historically, and I don’t expect that to end anytime soon.”