FLANDREAU, S. D. – A recreational and medicinal marijuana resort planned for the Flandreau Santee Sioux Indian Reservation in southeast South Dakota has been put on hold.
Tribal attorney Seth Pearman announced over the weekend that the tribe is "temporarily suspending its marijuana cultivation and distribution facilities and destroying its existing crop.
"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.
The tribe had planned to open the marijuana-smoking lounge and entertainment building, which would have been the first of its kind in the nation on a reservation, on New Year's Eve, but was faced with opposition from South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley and others who were concerned about non-Indians being able to purchase and use marijuana - illegal under South Dakota law - at the resort.
The tribe, however, argued that the state doesn't have authority on its reservation and is a sovereign nation.
The reservation has its headquarters in Flandreau, about 45 miles north of Sioux Falls, with the lounge and grow facility just south of its 25-year-old casino, restaurant and hotel operation. Flandreau is town of about 2,300 people about 10 miles from the Minnesota border and Interstate 29.
Despite Jackley's concerns about the operation, he had always said they were continuing to have discussions with the tribe.
Those talks will continue Tuesday as Jackley has scheduled a meeting with tribal leaders this afternoon.
Pearman, too, said they were continuing to consult with not only the federal justice department, but also Jackley in "hopes to be granted parity `with states that have legalized marijuana."
"The tribe intends to successfully participate in the marijuana industry and tribal leadership is undaunted by this brief sidestep," Pearman said.
Meanwhile, Jackley, in a statement to news organizations this weekend said, "I believe the Santee Sioux Tribe's decision to delay its marijuana grow is South Dakota is in the best interest of tribal and nontribal members.
"As South Dakota's attorney general I am committed to continuing discussions with tribal leaders regarding public safety, which include impaired driving and other jurisdictional challenges created by federal law."
The tribe of 400 members on its reservation had hoped to grow about 60 different strains and about 80 pounds of marijuana a week and sell it in small amounts at the resort building and also in a separate area to families in need of medicinal marijuana.
A Colorado-based business called Monarch America had been helping the tribe set up its operation and marijuana plants had been growing for weeks in the tribe's growing facility. An official with the company refused to comment Monday.