Editor’s note: This is an expanded version of the report that appeared in the Feb. 22 edition of The Brookings Register.
Legalization of marijuana in South Dakota could provide a new, lucrative economic-development opportunity for Native American tribes and tribal members who have historically struggled to find prosperity and stability in the state economy.
Voter-approved measures to legalize marijuana in South Dakota may be on hold or stalled for the time being, but planning and research into creating a regulatory framework and business opportunities surrounding legal pot are continuing.
As those discussions and proposed legislation move slowly forward, it is becoming increasingly clear that South Dakota Native tribes and communities have advantages in entering the legal marijuana market quickly and with a high chance of success.
As shown in Western states that have already legalized marijuana, Native tribes that operate as sovereign nations have found the marijuana industry to be a path to creation of new jobs, generation of tax revenues and redevelopment of communities that have often suffered economic hardship.
“It’s a new industry that brings new challenges to a tribal government, but it also brings forward a demographic of people who weren’t welcomed at the table before,” said Laurie Thom, enforcement director at the Inter-Tribal Marijuana Enforcement Commission of Nevada. “Not only does it allow tribes to thrive, but it allows individual tribal members to spread their wings and their skill sets.”
South Dakota voters in November approved a statewide initiative to legalize medicinal marijuana and passed a constitutional amendment legalizing the possession, use, growth and sale of recreational marijuana for adults. Both measures were set to take effect on July 1.
But Gov. Kristi Noem is seeking to delay legalization of medical marijuana for a year and has led a court challenge to legalization of recreational