Tribal cannabis store arrives at Foxwoods Casino in CT, and possibly North Carolina too
One of the nation’s largest tribal-owned marijuana stores arrives at – or at least near – the famed Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, and another is planned near Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in North Carolina.
Connecticut legalized cannabis for adult use earlier this year. On July 1, 2021, it became legal for all adults 21 and over to possess up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana. Retail sales at state-approved stores are expected to begin in summer 2022.
In North Carolina, all cannabis is strictly prohibited. The state hasn’t even legalized medical marijuana yet. But the North Carolina Compassionate Care Act, a bill to legalize medical cannabis, is making headway in the state legislature.
Native American tribes are not bound by state law and do not need a state cannabis license. In other legal states, tribes typically tax cannabis at a rate comparable to the state, but the tax revenue goes to the tribe and not to the state. Earlier this month, the Cherokee Indian Band Tribal Council voted to legalize medical marijuana on Cherokee lands.
The store adjacent to Foxwoods may not be of much concern to state or federal officials, as Connecticut is now legal for adults. But opening a tribal dispensary in a non-medical state like North Carolina would be a precedent-setting action – and it’s unclear whether the Cherokee tribe will wait for the state to legalize medical care before opening its doors. dispensary.
Cherokees, Mashantucket Pequots at the head of the initiatives
A source close to the two initiatives, who requested to remain anonymous due to the sensitive political situation in North Carolina, told Leafly that both projects were planned on a mega-dispensary scale, with footprints exceeding 25,000 square feet.
The stores will each offer two drive-through kiosks and a smokehouse, and will be located near popular tribal casino complexes.
Jeremy Wilson, the Cherokee Tribe’s government affairs liaison, said the Cherokees are still deciding between a handful of sites for the new mega-dispensary, which will likely be called Kituwah Medical. Wilson said the tribe is working toward an opening date in the summer of 2022.
The Tribe’s first option is to convert a huge stand-alone bingo hall a mile north of Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, which is approximately 80 miles west of Asheville, North Carolina. The bingo hall has been closed since the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the United States in March 2020.
Located near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The 1,100-room Harrah’s Cherokee resort in western North Carolina is located just a few miles from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of America’s most popular national parks.
If the old bingo hall isn’t working, another potential choice is the old Cherokee High School site, located just two miles from the casino. The facility closed in 2009 and the tribe demolished the old building in 2017.
Thousands of buyers every day
Wilson said that regardless of where the Cherokees build their dispensary, it will be equipped to serve “several thousand” daily shoppers.
“It will be the only legal cannabis dispensary for hundreds of miles around,” he said. âWe are therefore preparing to welcome large volumes of people. We can’t do this with a mom-and-pop location.
Wilson said the tribe plans to start publicizing their new dispensary in the coming months, once they decide on a location and can start developing it.
Meanwhile, near Foxwoods …
In Connecticut, the tribal owners of one of the East Coast’s most popular casinos also plan to open a mega-dispensary in 2022. The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation operates the Foxwoods Resort Casino on the 1,250-acre reserve of the tribe in the southeast corner of the state.
The dispensary, which could open as early as spring, will be located less than half a mile from the casino complex, adding to the portfolio of tourist attractions near Mashantucket Pequots including a golf course, cinema , a mall, trio of spas and dozens of restaurants.
Two officials interviewed separately from the tribal’s eight-member legislative government confirmed the cannabis project, but spoke on condition of anonymity because Mashantucket Pequot’s management had not allowed them to speak in public.
Tribes diversify from the game
If there’s anything the COVID-19 pandemic has taught tourism-based economies like those of many American tribal nations, it’s that providing visitors with a variety of options is now necessary to survive. When last year’s closures smothered the hospitality and gaming industries, the Eastern Cherokees and Mashantucket Pequots saw their main sources of income evaporate, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.
Shortly before COVID, in May 2018, the United States Supreme Court also ruled to begin allowing states to legalize sports betting. Lowering barriers to entry for non-tribal operators was another hurdle for Native American groups in an industry that many American tribes had relied on for decades as a proven source of income.
Meanwhile, legal marijuana sales continued to skyrocket. The US industry eclipsed $ 18.5 billion in sales last year. Total legal revenue is expected to exceed $ 25 billion in 2021, according to a recent analysis by Leafly / Whitney Economics.