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BISMARCK, North Dakota — Marijuana companies in California and Colorado have tabbed prominent American Indian leaders from the Dakotas to help prod tribes across the nation into the pot business.
Tex Hall, the former chairman of the oil-rich Three Affiliated Tribes, and Robert Shepherd, former chairman of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate tribe in northeastern South Dakota and southeastern North Dakota, are trying to recruit and assist tribes in producing high-grade marijuana products.
“Those who want to get in early are the ones who will really succeed,” said Shepherd, the tribal relations officer for Denver-based Monarch America Inc.
With 566 federally recognized Indian tribes in the United States, the potential revenue for marijuana businesses is big, even though many native leaders remain skeptical, Shepherd said. Elders especially are wary.
“It’s hard to deny the medical properties in cannabis,” Shepherd said. “But the federal government has done a good job of portraying it as a horrible drug. There is going to be a huge educational period for tribes.”
The prospect of pot on tribal land is made possible by a U.S. Justice Department decision in December that allows Indian tribes, which are considered sovereign nations, to grow and sell marijuana on their lands as long as they follow the same federal conditions laid out for states that have legalized the drug.
Hall, the former chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes in the heart of North Dakota’s booming oil patch, and Tim Wright, president of Redding, California-based Wright Family Organics LLC, announced this month that they have formed a partnership to “provide cultivation, manufacturing, dispensing, processing, testing and regulatory support” for tribes interested in marijuana businesses on reservations.
Hall “has the power of influence, he is a wonderful leader and a wonderful spokesperson,” Wright said.
Hall did not return repeated telephone calls seeking comment.
“Throughout my career, I have fought for advancement and sovereignty of Indian tribes,” Hall said in a statement. “And a lot of that time was focused on economic development because that is what our people need and deserve.”
Hall is a three-time chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes on the Fort Berthold Reservation, which accounts for about a third of the 1.1 million barrels of oil produced daily in North Dakota. He was defeated in the tribal primary last year, after increased criticism from …Read More