A Native American tribe that was set to open the first marijuana resort in the United States burned its crop of weed on Saturday fearing a raid from the federal authorities, the tribal president told the Associated Press on Monday.
Flandreau Santee Sioux President Anthony Reider told the AP that the tribe has been in talks with a Justice Department official and U.S. Attorney for South Dakota Randolph Seiler and told that there was a possibility of a raid if the federal government's concerns weren't addressed.
Reider said the focus of the discussions has been whether non-tribal members would be allowed to partake in marijuana consumption while on the reservation.
The Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe has been working to open a marijuana resort — supplied by weed grown on tribal land, since last year — when the Justice Department said tribal nations may grow and sell cannabis on their land.
The tribe is located in South Dakota, where weed has not been legalized. The Justice Department, however, requires tribes to follow similar rules set out by states that have legalized marijuana, but with a few extra restrictions.
For starters, all marijuana sold on a reservation can only be sold 1 gram at a time and only if consumed on the tribal grounds. The bags would also have barcodes for tracking, making it possible to follow the sales and consumption of the cannabis.
The tribe, which includes about 400 members, started planting marijuana seeds in September and a bowling alley is in the process of being transformed into a marijuana lounge.
The weed resort was expected to open on New Year's Eve and projected to bring in up to $2 million in profit, with the Santee Sioux tribe hoping to use the revenue to rebuild a clinic, create an addiction treatment center, and construct new housing.
The tribe voted on Friday to suspend the operation for the marijuana resort and burn the crop until talks with federal officials are resolved.
Seth Pearman, the tribe's attorney, said FSST wanted to avoid a federal raid because it might damage the grow facility or lounge. They also wanted to make a good faith gesture as discussions continue, according to Indian Country Today.
"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," Pearman said in a statement. "The tribe intends to successfully participate in the marijuana industry, and tribal leadership is undaunted by this brief sidestep.”
Reider said federal officials hinted at the possibility of a raid taking place in approximately two weeks.
Federal officials can still raid marijuana operations at any time because weed is not legal under federal law.
Jackley said the tribe's decision to burn the weed was "in the best interest of both tribal and non-tribal members."