The Oneida Indian Nation announced on Monday that it is launching a new cannabis enterprise in central New York, with plans to begin construction next month on a 50,000 square foot facility to house the operation. The seed-to-sale venture will include cannabis cultivation and production at the new facility in Verona, New York, to be run entirely by the Oneida Indian Nation. Retail cannabis stores, which will be announced at a later date and located exclusively on tribal lands, are projected to open in late 2023.
Ray Halbritter, a representative of the Oneida Indian Nation and the CEO of Oneida Nation Enterprises, said that the Oneida Indian Nation is launching operations in the cannabis industry to take advantage of new economic opportunities created by the legalization of marijuana in New York and the surrounding area.
“As more and more states across the country enter into the cannabis business, including neighboring states and other tribal nations, it is important that the Oneida people not be left out from taking advantage of this economic opportunity,” Halbritter said in a statement from the Oneida Indian Nation. “We are excited about this new venture and are confident based on our expertise and proven track record within other highly regulated industries that we will be able to set the standard for developing a safe and successful adult recreational cannabis business on Oneida Indian Nation lands.”
Weed Is Now Legal in New York
New York legalized recreational marijuana last year with the passage of the Marijuana Taxation and Regulation Act, which was signed into law on March 31, 2021. Regulators are currently in the process of developing the regulatory system to govern the cannabis industry, with the first retail adult-use cannabis dispensaries expected to open by the end of the year.
Officials in New York have acknowledged that sovereign Native American nations are free to participate in the state’s legal cannabis market. The Cayuga Nation has established a cannabis growing and processing facility in Seneca County and a retail store in Cayuga County. The Akwesasne Mohawk Nation has retail cannabis outlets on its land in northern New York, while the Seneca Nation has about 20 retailers on its territory in the western part of the state.
For its newly announced cannabis enterprise, the Oneida Indian Nation has adopted a cannabis ordinance and regulations to govern the cannabis enterprise and hold it to standards comparable to New York State’s cannabis laws and regulations, including comparable age restrictions and limitations on purchase amounts, employee licensure requirements and assurances of product safety and quality.
The Oneida Indian Nation will own and operate all of the businesses associated with the cannabis enterprise, rather than issuing licenses to independent operators. The nation has discussed the tribe’s plans for the cannabis enterprise with the New York Office of Cannabis Management and is open to further talks, according to Joel Barkin, the nation’s vice president for communications.
The Oneida Indian Nation has engaged in discussions with the New York State Office of Cannabis Management to create a joint inspection partnership of their cannabis products. The nation will apply the same tax rate on marijuana sales as the state to “avoid competition questions,” Barkin said. All tax revenues will go to support the tribe and its municipal government services on the nation territory. Those include health care, education, public safety, and cultural preservation.
The Oneida Indian Nation is a federally recognized Indian nation in central New York, consisting of about 1,000 enrolled tribal members. The Oneida Indian Nation’s enterprises, which employ more than 4,500 people, include hotels, casinos, retail shops, an RV Park, and three boat marinas. Proceeds from these enterprises are used to develop the tribe’s economic base and provide essential services to its members, including housing, health care, and education incentives and programs.
A.J. Herrington is a San Diego-based freelance writer covering cannabis news, business, and culture.