Hemp/Cannabis & Native American Tribes

Written by Asia Mayfield

The cannabis and hemp revolution underway in the U.S. is ushering in new opportunities for Native American tribes. Tribal land is exempt from many federal and state laws. Historically, many tribes have used this privilege to operate casinos in areas where gambling is prohibited. Now, many are hoping to do the same with cannabis.

Las Vegas legalized recreational cannabis in 2017. However, smoking lounges are banned until 2021. The sole exception is the recently opened tasting lounge operated by the Las Vegas Paiutes.

“Within a year and half this is going to compete with our other businesses,” NuWu Cannabis representative Benny Tso explained. However, he believes that the dispensary will be able to hold on to its customers. “I think we’ve prolonged our tribe by three to four more generations.”

There are also Native American tribes experimenting with hemp. With 2018’s passage of the Farm Bill, hemp cultivation was legalized throughout the country. Tribal communities have the same rights as states to regulate the plant’s cultivation. Already, multiple tribes are nurturing crops ready for harvest. These communities have a long history with both hemp and cannabis.

For example, the Ogala Sioux’s (of North and South Dakota) first successful hemp harvest was in 2002. Previous crops were confiscated or destroyed. According to the University of Washington, a few days after the 2002 harvest, “the federal government obtained papers that prohibited… growing and harvesting hemp without the explicit permission from the DEA.” The Ogala Sioux are now resuming production.

The Sioux’s story is not unique. Wisconsin’s St. Croix Chippewa plan to invest $1.2 million into hemp production over the next few years. Gambling, while it’s been a boon for a few tribes, has not been beneficial for Native Americans as a whole. The barrier to entry is lower for cannabis and hemp, potentially allowing for greater participation.

Image source: Merry Jane

About the author

Asia Mayfield

Asia Mayfield is a freelance writer who focuses on the cannabis industry. She can be reached at

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