Continuing the increasing participation of Indigenous communities in the cannabis industry, the Seneca Nation in New York and the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians in Michigan have launched their first retail dispensaries. The opening-day celebrations, which took place on April 20th (National Cannabis Day), marked milestones for Opus Consulting Partners LLC, a business advisory firm with specialized experience working with Native American tribes. The company was hired to bring each operation from concept to ribbon-cutting ceremonies and beyond.
How Has Opus Consulting Helped The Seneca And The Pokagon Tribes Enter The Cannabis Industry?
Jacques Santucci, President of Opus Consulting, explained, “For each Tribe, we performed a feasibility and economic development study, and worked within their unique regulatory frameworks to develop sustainable businesses that respect the Tribes’ sovereignty, meet the Tribal economic development authorities’ goals, and maintain compliance to provide safe access to cannabis for Tribal Citizens and others who shop at these stores. Both of the Tribes’ leadership teams have been exceptionally collaborative and trusting, and open to creativity with everything from building concepts and elevating the customer experience.”
Nativa Cannabis: The Seneca Nation's First Cannabis Dispensary In New York
There are hundreds of Indigenous-owned cannabis businesses operating across the country, with Michigan and New York as the fourth and fifth densest states for such enterprises. Over 100 stores have been launched in New York on tribal-owned, sovereign land. Due to the nature of the sovereignty laws, tribal-owned cannabis businesses on these lands may not be subject to the same regulations that state-licensed cannabis operators face, posing unique opportunities for Indigenous communities and entrepreneurs.
“We don’t have a tax base, so whatever we generate as revenue, we take directly back to services for our people,” said Seneca Nation president Ricky Armstrong, Sr.
Built from recycled shipping containers less than two blocks from the Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino in downtown Niagara Falls, New York, Nativa Cannabis is the Seneca Nation’s first retail cannabis business. At the 420 opening, Nativa had 18 employees and a variety of products sourced from local cultivators and tested for contaminants before sale to customers. With the assistance of Opus Consulting, the Seneca Nation plans to open their own cultivation facility later this year and is exploring additional locations for more Nativa Cannabis stores.
The Seneca Nation joins other New York-based tribes such as the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, which has licensed 17 retailers and five cultivators upstate, and the Shinnecock Indian Nation, which is scheduled to open the first phase of its vertically-integrated cannabis operation, Little Beach Harvest, in Southampton later this year.
Rolling Embers: The Pokagon Band Of Potawatomi Indians' First Cannabis Dispensary In Michigan
Meanwhile, in New Buffalo, Michigan, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians opened the 3,000 square-foot Rolling Embers dispensary and consumption lounge on their tribal trust land. Staffed with more than 15 employees, Rolling Embers features an outdoor consumption lounge that encourages relaxation and community with its comfortable seating, gas fire pit, space for live music performances, and a rotation of local favorite food trucks. Asserting its sovereignty, Rolling Embers is one of the only locations in Michigan where customers can purchase and consume cannabis at the same facility.
"With its innovative concept and great location near Lake Michigan, Rolling Embers offers a retail cannabis experience that is truly unique in the state of Michigan,” said Pokagon Band Tribal Council Treasurer and Pokagon Development Authority Chairman, Alex Wesaw. “At the request of many of our citizens, the Pokagon Band evaluated business opportunities within the burgeoning cannabis industry for several years, and we are very pleased to have partnered with Opus Consulting to enter the market and establish Rolling Embers."
What's Next For Opus Consulting And Indigenous Cannabis?
“Tribes working in cannabis or looking to enter the cannabis market are seeing how the industry can provide their citizens with jobs and create mutually beneficial partnerships with other Tribes and local businesses,” explained Opus Consulting senior consultant Nick Des Lauriers, who works with both the Seneca Nation and Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians. “They are getting a new opportunity on their sovereignty, and the Opus Consulting team is proud to work with them to build a more prosperous economic future for their citizens.”
Opus Consulting continues to work with other tribal governments, from New England to the West Coast, to assess opportunities for their communities and develop ventures in the cannabis industry as well as other industries.
Nativa Cannabis is located at 765 Niagara Street in Niagara Falls, NY. For more information, visit nativacannabis.com. Rolling Embers is located at 19279 Kinst Road, New Buffalo, MI. To learn more, visit rolling-embers.com. For more about Opus Consulting, visit opuscg.com.
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Featured image: The grand opening of Rolling Embers, the first cannabis dispensary owned by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians in Michigan, on 420. Jacques Santucci, president of Opus Consulting, is on the far left. (C) Opus Consulting