New York marijuana dispensaries open in tribal areas

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In fact, not everyone here is okay with the new deals: The St. Regis Tribal Government claims the pharmacies operate outside of the reserve’s laws, robbing the tribe of vital revenue from license and sales fees that provide essential services, including education, health care, and public safety.

The internal dispute in the reservation has become so intense that tribal leaders sued in tribal courtafter giving the fraudulent pharmacies 48 hours to close or be disqualified from a future license. The pharmacies have defiantly refused: more stores have opened, and many pot shops on the reservation are now hanging signs on their doors warning that tribal law compliance officials are not welcome and will be charged with trespassing.

This attitude has done little to ease tension between tribal officials and the pharmacies.

“They think of themselves, not of the community as a whole,” said Chief Ronald LaFrance Jr., one of three St. Regis chiefs, adding, “And that’s my concern, the lost revenue for the tribe.”

Marijuana is still illegal in the eyes of the US government, but it has been legalized for recreational use by adults in 18 states and for medical use in more than 30, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. In recent years, pharmacies have been opening tribal areas across the country, including states Nevada, Washington and Michigan; in New York are the Shinnecock on Long Island Take steps to get into the market, as well as the Seneca on the western flank of the state.

For their part, New York State authorities appear to be hand-offing early entrepreneurs on the St. Regis reservation, suggesting that such businesses are legal on recognized, sovereign tribal land.

With state regulations far from being codified and the tribal government unable to stop the expansion of business, St. Regis pharmacies operate both in a legal gray area and with an until recently undetectable urgency in Albany.


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