Finally, a reason to visit South Dakota besides those giant president heads.
The nation’s first marijuana resort is coming to the heart of flyover country. The Santee Sioux Tribe, which owns the Royal River Casino & Hotel in Flandreau, South Dakota, is building a stoner’s clubhouse of sorts. The grow lights are on and the tribe hopes to push its first kush by year’s end.
“We hope to have the best New Year’s Eve party in the state,” jokes tribal attorney Seth Pearson.
The tribe legalized recreational pot on the rez in June (it's still illegal in the rest of the state). Last fall, the Justice Department essentially told tribes they wouldn’t get busted for letting people get baked on tribal lands, provided it doesn’t conflict with eight federal enforcement priorities — like cracking down on weed-related gunplay and scary cartel stuff.
With help from a pot-growing consultant (what an economy), the Santee Sioux have set up a grow center and are converting an old bowling alley adjacent to the casino into a smokers’ lounge. The “distribution facility” will have an “upscale bar and club atmosphere,” Pearson says.
So what should we expect from what we’re calling Club Distro? VIP bong service, tableside joint rollers, and women in miniskirts flashing their nugs to cut purple-roped lines?
“We’re trying to get a pizza kitchen in,” Pearson explains. “It won’t be like a ‘club’ club, but it will be a comfortable place where people can come in and just consume.”
Yeah, good call on the pizza. They'll also host live music and comedians.
At least initially, weed will only be allowed in that 10,000-square-foot anti-club, so no burning at the Black Jack table. It will be sold by the gram to anyone 21 and older, and 18-year-olds with a doctor’s note proving they have a legit medical condition. Kiddos looking to score need parental consent and the doc’s note to purchase medicinal oils.
Pearson wouldn’t say how much slot coin the tribe’s investing in the project, only that it’s a “substantial” amount. While the tribe reportedly expects to reap monthly dope-money profits of $2 million, it’s gambling that the next White House administration won’t start enforcing the federal weed ban.
“Oh, it’s certainly a concern to the tribe,” Pearson says. “But it’s getting to where it may be challenging to do that now. There’s 24 states that have legalized marijuana in one form or another and including … Washington D.C. So I think with the continued expansion and legalization throughout the United States that it will be pretty challenging for the new administration to come in and say, ‘This is it. Let’s shut it all down.’”
The lawyer says the tribe plans to spend some of that new green creating a drug and alcohol treatment facility on the reservation. The irony of funding a rehab clinic with weed money isn’t lost on him. But with a glaring community need, Pearson sees nothing wrong with undercutting drug dealers to fund the program (and the tribal government).
“You know they’re selling to kids, the quality of their product might not be there, and it’s more dangerous,” he contends. “Hopefully we’ll push those people out.”
But not in a cartel-y, turf war kinda way.