South Dakota Tribe Burns Marijuana Under Threat of Federal Raid

South Dakota Tribe Burns Marijuana Crop for Fear of Federal Raid

(Sarah Weston/Indian Country Today)

Remember the South Dakota Native American tribe that announced plans to open the country’s first “marijuana resort” this New Year’s Eve? Well, looks like that won’t be happening, as the tribe just burned its entire marijuana crop to the ground for fear of a federal raid.

After months of planning, planting, and advertising, this is a big hit to the Flandreau Santee Sioux of South Dakota, who legalized marijuana on their reservation in June. For the past three weeks, Tribe President Anthony Reider and other important figures have been in discussions with authorities, trying to hammer out the legal details of the tribe’s proposed marijuana resort and casino. The main point of contention in these meetings was whether or not the tribe would be allowed to sell weed to non-Indians — understandably an integral part of the tribe’s business plan.

These discussions finally culminated in the inclusion of Justice Department officials and the U.S. Attorney for South Dakota. The tribe was warned that a federal raid of their marijuana and facilities was to come if the government’s conditions weren’t met.

Reider told the press his tribe decided it was better to destroy their current crop in a controlled burn rather than risk a federal raid that could damage their equipment or facilities — not to mention risking the wrath of the Justice Department for failing to bend to its rules.

“We just felt it would be best to go in with a clean slate to look for answers on how to proceed, so that all sides are comfortable with it,” Reider said.

The extent to which the feds will go to enforce federal prohibition of weed — in spite of the Justice Department policy that marijuana may be legalized on tribal lands — remains to be seen. Much like how the wrong administration could overturn Obama’s current policy of letting states decide on marijuana laws, the tribes that choose to legalize on their lands can’t count anything certain until federal law is changed to respect state and tribal laws — or, you know, to legalize marijuana.