The Shinnecock Nation Cannabis Regulatory Division approves sale of marijuana. NewsdayTV's Steve Langford reports.  Credit: Randee Daddona

Shinnecock Indian Nation shops could begin selling adult recreational marijuana as soon as next week after tribal approval of regulations to govern cultivation, sale and consumer use of the products on the Southampton reservation, officials said Friday. 

The tribe’s Council of Trustees voted unanimously Thursday to approve the new rules in a move Tela Troge, a member of the tribe’s Cannabis Regulatory Division, called a "historic moment for our economic future." 

The new rules pave the way for the first government-sanctioned retail sales of cannabis on Long Island, leaders of the sovereign tribe said.

Earlier this week, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the first legal state-licensed retail sales in Manhattan.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Shinnecock Indian Nation shops could begin selling adult recreational marijuana as early as next week after tribal approval of regulations to govern cultivation, sale and consumer use of the products on the Southampton reservation. 
  • The new rules pave the way for the first government-sanctioned retail sales of cannabis on Long Island, leaders of the sovereign tribe said.
  • The tribe’s Council of Trustees voted unanimously Thursday to approve the regulations. 

Some Shinnecock smoke shops, as well as some on the Poospatuck reservation in Mastic, have been discreetly selling cannabis in their shops for months, Newsday has reported

Tribal trustee chairman Bryan Polite told Newsday the tribe worked hard to make sure the rules were thorough and rigorous while helping fund a new source of revenue for the nation.

The regulations include requirements for lab testing and age restrictions. 

"This wasn't a race" to be first, Polite said. "We wanted to get this right." 

Troge said the newly amended regulations would govern individuals’ ability to grow and use cannabis on the Southampton reservation and how Shinnecock smoke shops will sell to the general public.

They cover cultivation and processing of marijuana and cannabis products by tribal members, and for fully licensed sale at retail.

The tribe's wholly owned Little Beach Harvest cannabis dispensary, under construction on tribal land, also will be governed by the rules. The dispensary is expected to open early next year.

"It's a very proud moment for the Shinnecock Nation," said Chenae Bullock, managing director of Little Beach Harvest. 

The tribe's regulations, Troge said, are expected to largely mirror state rules on cannabis sales, including restrictions on purchases by those under 21 and required lab testing of cannabis that must be cultivated in New York.

Tribal members who operate formally licensed operations will be able to sell approved cannabis to tribal shop owners, but only shops on Montauk Highway will offer products for sale direct to the public, Troge said.

“We’re interested in the health, safety and welfare of all consumers,” Troge told Newsday. All product will be "extremely safe, laboratory tested" cannabis, she said. 

Shop owners who operate stores on Montauk Highway will be eligible to apply for licenses now, Troge said, meaning the first licenses could be approved as soon as next week.

Lance Gumbs, a former tribal chairman and owner of the Shinnecock Indian Outpost and shop, Cloud 9, said the ability to sell cannabis from his shop represents a potentially lucrative transition, after tobacco-based products have waned because of state rules. 

"We lost a lot when the state intervened and started charging wholesalers taxes for branded cigarettes," said Gumbs, whose family has owned the shop for generations and was among the first to sell cigarettes in 1958.

"Now, by literally growing our own cannabis and owning the locations we'll be able to make a decent living," Gumbs told Newsday. 

David Taobi Silva, who manages the Shinnecock Smoke Shop, said his retail store is among those that have been discreetly selling cannabis for months.

He said he plans to sell via the new licensing structure as soon as he's approved next week. 

"Shinnecock is a historically underserved and marginalized community" said Silva, a former tribal trustee.

"This is one the first real steps toward economic self-sufficiency," Silva told Newsday. "We're on equal footing, and it feels like the scales are balanced."

Cannabis license holders will pay a 4% tax to the tribal government under the new regulations, to help fund “much needed services” of tribal government, Troge said, including health care and substance-use services. 

Polite said it's not just shop owners who will benefit economically. 

"We hope that this will not only allow our nation to expand social programs but also allow individual tribal entrepreneurs to get into the industry," Polite said. 

New York State has indicated it would not intercede in tribal sales. 

"Native Americans living on federally recognized, sovereign tribal land can choose to operate dispensaries that are not regulated under the New York State cannabis law, which has been done in other states that have legalized cannabis," the state's Office of Cannabis Management, which is setting rules and issuing licenses for state-authorized cannabis sales, told Newsday earlier this year. 

 

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