While Native American tribes in some states are entering the emerging adult consumption and medical marijuana markets, the tribal nations of Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan now seem content to focus on expanded gambling opportunities with the recent introduction of sports betting to their Connecticut casinos.
The Mashantuckeet Pequots are investigating the possibility of a possible retail cannabis sale, but nothing is planned for the tribal nation’s sprawling Foxwoods Resort Casino in the immediate future.
Chuck Bunnell, chief of staff for the Mohegan Tribal Nation, is more definite.
“As the owner and operator of multiple properties in a range of jurisdictions, we are very much aware of the differences in the individual laws and regulations in each area in which we operate and the complexity of managing those differences,” said Bunnell in an email response to a request. “As such, the Mohegan tribe currently has no plans to take on a role in the cannabis industry.”
Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council, said the Foxwoods owners are keeping their options open.
“Connecticut legislation that legalized marijuana recognizes the inherent sovereign rights of Native American tribes and the ability of the state to contract with tribes that would create a more collaborative working relationship in this new industry,” Butler said. “Our tribe is reviewing all of the options created by the legislation and currently has no plans.”
Under the law signed by Governor Ned Lamont on June 22nd, which went into effect on July 1st and kicked off plans to open adult dispensaries in mid to late 2022, an agreement between the governor and the tribes would need to be reached before cannabis companies join Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun could set up.
Max Reiss, Lamont’s communications director, said there had been no such discussions with the tribes who would amend the existing contracts to give them the right to run pharmacies. These contracts have been changed in the past few weeks to allow sports betting and online casino gambling.
Potential business opportunities are being explored by the Department of Consumer Protection and the recently established Council for Social Justice, including growing cannabis, processing it for sale, running retail stores, and supplying cannabis to businesses or consumers.
Tribes across the country are getting into the cannabis business, including Native American councils in Michigan, Nevada, and Washington state. In upstate New York, controversy is brewing in the northern part of the state where marijuana retail stores have opened on the St. Regis Mohawk reservation, the New York Times reported recently.
Leafly, an online cannabis business and journalism site, has reported that the Cherokees, the largest tribal nation in the United States, are exploring the industry.
The site and MJBizJournal recently reported that the Cherokee Tribal Nation is considering opening cannabis stores in North Carolina, where the state government has not approved adult retail or the sale of medicinal cannabis. Leafly reported that cannabis sales were planned at Foxwoods, but the Mashantucket Pequots said the story was wrong.
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