Shinnecock Tribe Moves Cannabis Forward by Honoring the Past
My story today is from Thrillist and I hope I don’t blow the pronunciation when I report it on The State of Cannabis News Hour today - the show's 200th episode (more than 2,000 stories to date!)
From South Dakota to Nevada, Native tribes are getting into the mainstream cannabis game, and they’re doing it on their own time. As sovereign nations, these tribes have the right to conduct cannabis business in states that have legalized cannabis, even if the state government has not yet brought their cannabis system online. This is federally possible following a 2014 Department of Justice memo that allows recognized tribes with responsible cannabis businesses to operate without prosecution.
Although, if we’re being real, cannabis has been grown on these lands for a long time. Long before there was a federal government deciding what plants could or couldn’t be grown in this country.
Which is why Chenae Bullock, a Shinnecock Indian Nation tribal member and descendant of the Montauk tribe on Long Island, New York is currently developing her Nation’s cannabis business in the Hamptons as managing director of Little Beach Harvest, a medical cannabis operation established by and located on lands of the Shinnecock Nation.
Little Beach Harvest recently announced a major partnership with prominent multi-state operator TILT Holdings that will allow them to scale operations while maintaining control of them.
THE DEEP DIVE
The VERY WEIRD and conspiracy-theory inducing reason they’re partnering is because "tribes can’t access social equity programs that stem from the state government’s cannabis laws, so this kind of partnership with a larger company that respects tribal sovereignty is a game changer."
Cannabis has always been a way of life for Bullock and the Shinnecock Nation. "Her grandfather grew cannabis on the family homestead, and her grandmother cooked with it. Many of the elders she spent time with were the activists of the past century, not only introducing her to plant medicine but to the importance of cultural preservation and maintaining honored traditions."
The timing of this move may seem like a strategically sound business move: "Right now, multiple states have passed cannabis legislation, but are mired in delays getting licenses issued and shops open for business." In this dead period, Tribes are allowed to get a headstart.
This includes the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe of upstate New York, as well as the Flandreau Santee Sioux in South Dakota where Governor Kristi Noehm is trying to steal cannabis rights and women’s rights to control their bodies.
But Bullock says, "In most businesses, there’s this competitive energy … rooted in a colonist mindset. I like to aim for doing what is best for the Shinnecock Nation. Whatever New York state is doing is what they’re doing. We handle things as the People of the Stony Shore, the way we’ve done things since time immemorial."
Bullock’s group has established its own Cannabis Regulatory Division with Shinnecock board members that are already working on issuing licenses for growing and sales.
THE LOOP BACK
While TILT will assist in getting operations going, the tribe will be reflected in every way. Members who are experienced and interested in cannabis cultivation will inform production processes, and the grow itself will hire tribe-owned construction businesses whenever possible.
"This is about stimulating the tribal economy in general and partnering with tribal ancillary businesses."
There’s a grander vision by the Shinnecock Nation of the RETAIL DESTINATION, where people can visit Shinnecock land, peruse Shinnecock-curated products, and relax and converse in the wellness lounge.
"It comes back to inherent responsibility," Bullock says. "It’s not even about my family or just Shinnecock. It’s about inclusion of Indigenous voices and leadership in an industry that we’ve already been doing on our lands for decades. It’s about implementing real change at a crucial time in this new industry and preserving this ancient plant medicine that could really heal the world in many ways."