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November 07, 2015 09:55 AM

Santee Sioux Tribe Suspends Marijuana Operation

Flandreau, SD

The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe is burning millions of dollars worth of marijuana intended to be sold in the nation's first pot smoking lounge on tribal land, KELOLAND News has confirmed.

A source tells KELOLAND News that the decision was made because the tribe didn't want to deal with the ongoing controversy with the federal government. Instead, they want to sell marijuana the right way and the safest way possible.

"After government-to-government consultation with the United States, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe is temporarily suspending its marijuana cultivation and distribution facilities, and is destroying its existing crop," said Seth C. Pearman, Attorney for Flandeau Santee Sioux Tribe in a statement to KELOLAND News. The full statement is below. 

Moody County State's Attorney Paul Lewis says stepping onto tribal land does not provide you with a magic fence that protects you from prosecution if you have ingested marijuana and later stopped by police.

Attorney General Marty Jackley backs up that statement, saying it is illegal for non-tribal members to use or possess marijuana anywhere in the state of South Dakota.

"When you look at what was being proposed, discussion about bussing college kids to and from, concerns about impaired driving, I think for all these reasons, the tribes decision to now suspend the marijuana growth is in a positive direction," Jackley said.

Monarch America CEO Eric Hagen tells KELOLAND News he is not concerned about the marijuana suspension despite having a short-term deal with the tribe. The Colorado-based company consults the tribe on growing and selling marijuana.

He adds he's also not worried about losing money because the company consults in other states.

However, stock in the publicly-traded company has plummeted over the last week. It was trading at one cent on Friday.

The controversy started last June, when the Santee Sioux Tribe executive council legalized marijuana on the Flandreau reservation.

That came after the federal government tweaked a law last year, allowing tribal members to sell and use marijuana but only on tribal land.

However, there were a lot of questions concerning the legality of non-natives smoking pot on the reservation.

Jackley says even tribal members can be penalized if they are caught with marijuana in their system once they step on South Dakota soil. But that has legal marijuana users in other states upset.

"The attorney general is basically telling me and other South Dakotans who have moved away to states where marijuana is legal that we are technically not allowed to come home for the holidays. If I go to South Dakota for Christmas, just because I have marijuana in my bloodstream, I am a walking felon because I could be charged at any time," Emmett Reistroffer said, a marijuana advocate living in Denver.  

Native American Tribes across the region were eyeing the developing marijuana business in Flandreau.

On the Rosebud Reservation in southwest South Dakota, officials say they were cautiously interested in the money-making potential of marijuana.

Just this week, leaders of the Omaha Tribe in Nebraska considered growing marijuana after passing referendums to legalize marijuana.

Video of flames burning behind the growth facility in Flandreau:

KELOLAND News recieved this statement from Seth C. Pearman, Attorney for Flandeau Santee Sioux Tribe:

"After government-to-government consultation with the United States, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe is temporarily suspending its marijuana cultivation and distribution facilities, and is destroying its existing crop. This suspension is pivotal to the continued success of the marijuana venture, and Tribal leadership is confident that after seeking clarification from the United States Department of Justice, it will be better suited to succeed. The Tribe will continue to consult with the federal and state governments, and hopes to be granted parity with states that have legalized marijuana. The Tribe intends to successfully participate in the marijuana industry, and Tribal leadership is undaunted by this brief sidestep." 

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