Members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation prepare for the groundbreaking...

Members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation prepare for the groundbreaking for Little Beach Harvest, a cannabis dispensary. Credit: John Roca

The Shinnecock Indian Nation and its business partners formally broke ground Monday on the region’s first indigenous-owned cannabis company. 

Little Beach Harvest is slated to open in the first quarter of 2023, with a 5,000 square-foot dispensary at 56 Montauk Highway on tribal land in Southampton. Initially, the business will use outside wholesalers to stock the shop, according to Little Beach Harvest Managing Director Chenae Bullock.

The tribe hosted the first groundbreaking on Long Island for a new dispensary designed to serve recreational customers as well as medical patients. (Medical marijuana shops in the region may evolve to serve the general public.)

The dispensary plans to add products grown and produced on the Southampton reservation once Little Beach Harvest’s cultivation facility is running. Construction of the grow center should get underway by the end of 2022. The cannabis operation also envisions launching a wellness and consumption lounge.

Little Beach Harvest will support careers in cannabis and tap tribal-owned businesses for goods and services, bolstering the community, tribal leaders said. Bullock, who wrote a book on indigenous plant medicine, described the venture as a way to "reclaim an ancient industry."

"What we're doing together is harvesting," said Bullock, founder and CEO of Moskehtu Consulting LLC, a cultural and heritage preservation firm. "We have an entire nation that we are building this for. And it’s not just the money that’s coming in. It’s really making sure that we’re preserving and protecting our sovereignty."

The $5 million dispensary will have a drive-through and feature natural stone and light wood elements.

A rendering of the Shinnecock Indian Nation's Little Beach Harvest,...

A rendering of the Shinnecock Indian Nation's Little Beach Harvest, a cannabis dispensary. Credit: T-Arch Studio

The project also involves Conor Green, a cannabis-focused economic development firm tapped by the Shinnecock Nation, and TILT Holdings Inc., a firm that provides services to cannabis companies. Little Beach Harvest is entirely tribally owned.

The Shinnecock have envisioned starting a cannabis venture for years. The project got pushed back because of leadership changes and COVID-19, according to Conor Green partner Barre Hamp. 

Before Little Beach Harvest, or any other on-reservation sales venue, can market recreational cannabis, the tribal government must finalize, and its council must enact rules regulating the sales. Shinnecock Nation chairman Bryan Polite said he expects that to happen sometime this summer. 

The tribe passed medical cannabis regulations in 2015, and revised them in 2019, he said.

Any regulations, Polite said, would essentially mirror, or be “co-extensive” with New York State’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act. Shinnecock Nation officials have had several meetings with the state’s Office of Cannabis Management, he said, which has received working copies of the proposed Shinnecock cannabis rules to “to try to make them as coextensive as possible” with the state’s. 

The tribe intends to reach an agreement with the state so that New York-licensed businesses can sell to and purchase from Little Beach Harvest. 

Polite cautioned that approving the final regulations doesn’t necessarily mean the tribe will automatically begin issuing licenses, and added, “I can’t put a time frame on that.”

Taking time to make sure all the rules are well thought out is important, he said, “given some of the pitfalls that can happen if you don’t take the time, and we’ve seen that all over the country with programs that didn’t take their time.”

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