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June 15, 2015 06:00 PM

South Dakota Indian Reservation Legalizes Marijuana

Flandreau, SD

The Flandreau Santee Sioux Indian Reservation has legalized the sale and use of marijuana on tribal land.

Last Thursday, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe Executive Committee became the first reservation in the state to legalize marijuana.

Plans call for one facility where marijuana will be grown, and another place to buy and use the drug for medicinal and recreational use for those over 21.

Those under 21 could use medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. It's a controversial issue for the reservation, and the community of Flandreau.

Tribal President Anthony Reider says The Flandreau Santee Sioux Indian tribe is used to stepping forward and taking a stance on controversial issues.

"Throughout Indian country, Flandreau's been trail-blazers,” Reider said. “We were with the casino, we were the second compacted tribe in the United States, the first and largest casino in between Atlantic City and Las Vegas, so it's something that's not new to us. We kind of like taking the forefront on issues."

An issue that not everyone agrees on, including Becky Red Earth-Villeda, who's lived on the reservation her whole life.

"We have no business going into marijuana, I don't care what the reason is," Red Earth-Villeda said.

Flandreau Mayor Mark Bonrud says he is against the ordinance as well.

"We don't see any benefits in having marijuana in one certain entity without any tax structure or anything that's going to benefit the city, or the state of South Dakota," Bonrud said.

There are more than 300 federally-recognized Indian Reservations in the United States, and each one has the power to choose whether or not they legalize marijuana.

Tribal Attorney Seth Pearman says the facilities growing and selling marijuana will contain security personnel and surveillance cameras to prevent the removal of the product from the specified locations. He says the controlled environment will limit the quantity of marijuana to one gram at a time.

"We're really kind of hoping that people treat it much like alcohol. We still would allow people to stay at our hotel, which would be the most ideal situation for us, but drugged driving is a major concern that we hope to curb, and by having such a small quantity, we hope that people don't over consume," Pearman said.

Pearman says potential customers will need a valid registration card to purchase and use marijuana: an operation that could be up and running by as early as this fall.

Reider says the ordinance also includes a provision for a three-member marijuana control commission.

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