South Dakota tribe votes for cannabis legalization on ancestral territory

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

The results of a cannabis legalization vote by the Oglala Sioux Tribe are expected to be revealed in the coming week. If a successful vote ensues, this tribal territory in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation would become the first region in the state to permit the legal sale and consumption of both medical and recreational cannabis.

Aside from the obvious benefits that drug reform would have on consumers, cannabis legalization in South Dakota could also have positive repercussions on the economy as a whole. Members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe feel confident that legalization would entice more tourists to the Pine Ridge Reservation; founded by the Act of March 2, 1889, 25 Stat. 

Cannabis legalization in South Dakota: Oglala Sioux Tribe could go down in history

It is against the law to sell, grow or consume the cannabis plant in South Dakota; well, for now at least. Neighbouring states Wyoming and Nebraska also deem these activities to be unlawful. With such a lack of legal cannabis in South Dakota and its surrounding vicinities, the Oglala Sioux if successful in their endeavors will be able to tap into a majorly untapped market. Not only this, but the Oglala Sioux would go down in history as the only Native American tribe to launch a cannabis market of their very own, especially since the state in which this tribe resides is not cannabis-friendly.

“People will be coming in from all directions to get their medicine,” tribal leader Ricky Gray Grass said during an interview with the Associated Press.

Members of the tribe were said to be meeting on March 11 to vote on the issue of cannabis legalization in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. However, an update regarding the situation has not yet been released. A separate issue to be addressed at the scheduled vote was whether or not alcohol consumption should be allowed inside a casino that is owned and operated by the Oglala Sioux tribe.

“I think it’s going to win by a landslide,” said Gray Grass, whose tribe affirms its right to cultivate and sell cannabis on its territory as part of its sovereignty. Nonetheless, many Native American “cannapreneurs” have been put off by the idea of getting involved in the legal weed market, since it could jeopardize their casino licenses and/or federal funding.

Cannabis legalization in South Dakota: Initiative to be voted on in November

There’s a chance that South Dakotans may be able to get their hands on legal weed soon; even if the Oglala Sioux tribe are unsuccessful in their efforts. When the November polls take place, residents will be invited to vote on both medical and recreational cannabis legalization.

An adequate number of signatures have already been collected by pro-cannabis campaigners that sends a medical cannabis legalization initiative to the constitutional ballot. Recreational cannabis legalization, on the other hand, will be featured on a statutory ballot. This was confirmed after Secretary of State Steve Barnett’s office verified the signatures.

In the event that either or both bills pass, the state would be required to develop a regulatory framework and licensing rules for legal cannabis in South Dakota. With that being said, the rollout could be slow. If the Oglala Sioux are victorious in their quest to launch a cannabis market, they’ll have the added advantage of being a first-mover in the state. An update on the vote is forthcoming.