Recreational cannabis has been legal in New York since April the 1st, 2021. However, there is currently a standstill on practical decision making. There is a need to appoint an agency that could regulate the cannabis industry.
The Saint Regis Mohawk tribe will become the first Indian Nation in New York to take over. They will be the first of more NY tribes to start opening pot shops and growing on tribal land.
The Mohawk, Kanien’kehá:ka or People of the Flint are one of six nations in the Iroquois Confederacy. They are the Iroquois easternmost Indian tribe. Within this Confederacy, they are the keepers of the eastern door (preventing attacks from the east). Iroquois is one language these six nations have in common.
It is believed that the Iroquois Confederacy or Haudenosaunee is the model upon which the Constitution of the US is based. The Iroquois Confederacy formed a peaceful alliance called Gayanere:gowa or the Great Law of Peace. Together with the government of Iceland and the Swiss cantons, it is one of the oldest continuously functioning democracies in the world.
Archaeological findings confirm that Mohawks have occupied lands (they are semi sedentary) on what we now know as New York State since at least 1600 A.D. They now inhabit eight communities in New York, Ontario and Quebec. There are about 30.000 Mohawk throughout the United States and Canada.
From the many Mohawk communities in the US and Canada, only one is officially recognized by the US, the Saint Regis. They are located on the Akwesasne reservation in northern New York.
Like every other Mohawk community, they have their own traditional leadership and elected representatives. The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council is their elected government. Both New York State and the United States deal exclusively with the Tribal Council Chiefs in a government-to-government relationship.
Adult use of recreational marihuana in New York is legal since April the 1st, 2021. Possession of up to 3 ounces (85gr) of cannabis is allowed.
Unfortunately, Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers are yet to submit official nominations for the agency that could regulate the cannabis industry in New York. This means that even though cannabis use is legalized, there is no way of legally buying or growing it due to a lack of legislation.
These delays are due to some political disagreements and it is estimated that it could take up to two years before a hypothetical cannabis board could issue licenses for growers, sellers and distributors.
Sovereignty is the right of a nation or group of people to be self-governing. The United States is made up of three sovereign bodies: the federal government, state governments, and tribal governments. Native American sovereignty is obviously older than the rest.
The US recognizes tribal nations as domestic dependent nations that elect their own representatives. They have the same powers as federal and state governments to regulate their internal affairs.
With this kind of divided sovereignty, cannabis can be illegal federally but still be legal within tribal nations. And this is how the Saint Regis Mohawk tribe gets to set up its own cannabis industry in New York, where there is still no legislation on this matter (July 2021).
This ordinance sets regulations for the growth and processing of cannabis from July the 16th, 2021. It further issues licenses for cannabis stores and ensures that all the procedures will be followed within tribal territory. Their plan is to license Mohawk entrepreneurs instead of running state-owned businesses.
But the Mohawk nation is not the only Indian nation in New York with a foot into the cannabis industry. The Shinnecock Indian Nation could be opening their own recreational marijuana dispensaries as early as this fall (2021), and the Oneida Indian Nation has shown interest in setting up recreational marijuana businesses. The Seneca Nation of Indians and the Cayuga Nation are already running hemp businesses.
The Saint Regis Mohawk tribal leaders have filed civil action (in tribal court) to close seven marijuana dispensaries that were operating illegally within their territory. These unauthorized dispensaries were running without any license issued by the Tribe.
The Mohawk nation as a sovereign entity faces a chance to enrich its economy. Think about all the employment generated only by growing, processing, testing and selling.
This new adult-use cannabis ordinance will not only help tribal members kickoff into the cannabis industry, but it will also represent a new opportunity to expand the local economy. This will help generate funds for community programs as well as a good chance to develop the cannabis industry in New York.
The Tribe’s Compliance Department made public that cannabis cultivation licenses would be available from July the 16th. These could be issued by mid-August 2021. At the date of this article, the Tribal Council has already received dozens of applications.
Applications can be submitted by sending a pre-clearance form to the Compliance Department Office at 28 Okwarine Road, NY.