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SRMT Adopts Adult Use Cannabis Ordinance

Jun 29, 2021

AKWESASNE — On Monday, Ohiari:ha/June 28, 2021 the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council signed Tribal Council Resolution 2021-33 and, in the process, adopted as tribal law the Adult Use Cannabis Ordinance. The Ordinance followed a December 14, 2019 Tribal Referendum that approved the legalization of adult use cannabis under tribal regulations. At that time, 76% of tribal voters approved the regulation’s development and eventual adoption.

The adoption of the Tribe’s Adult Use Cannabis Ordinance is historic, as it represents the first adult use cannabis law adopted by a tribe in New York State and is the first in the Country that licenses tribal members and tribal member-owned businesses.

“It would have been easier to follow the practice of other tribes and made this a tribally owned business, but we have and will continue to support the entrepreneurs in our community,” shared Tribal Chief Michael Conners. Chief Conners noted that, “We have many tribal member entrepreneurs and we want to give them the opportunity to help develop this industry for the benefit of the community.”

Adhering to federal requirements, the Tribe had to wait until New York State first legalized adult use cannabis before adopting the tribal law, which occurred on March 31, 2021. Under those same federal guidelines, the Tribe had to prepare and adopt strict regulations that protect the health and safety of its members and prevents the illegal diversion of cannabis.

“We know that a handful of tribal members have prematurely opened, this is an issue we are working through and are seeking to resolve. We appreciate those entrepreneurs who have been patient and who know that tribal processes must be followed to ensure the regulations are completed in a responsible manner with community input,” said Tribal Chief Eric Thompson. Chief Thompson also added, “Approved and tested products will soon be available at tribally licensed stores, which customers can trust as being a safe product that is being regulated in a socially responsible manner. The Compliance Department has already had 24 tribal members pick up the preclearance application forms.”

The adopted Ordinance went through the Tribe’s community engagement process that entailed three public meetings, which were held on April 22nd, April 29th, and May 6th. Much of the feedback and recommendations received from membership at the engagement sessions were incorporated into the final version of the Ordinance.

Some of the major provisions of the SRMT Adult Use Cannabis Ordinance include:

1. Immediately (on its effective date of June 28, 2021) adult Tribal Members (at least 21-years old) may grow and maintain up to 12 cannabis plants in their own residences;

2. The Tribe has begun accepting the first round of applications for cannabis licenses (called “pre-clearance” applications) for all licenses (cultivation, processing and dispensary);

3. Upon completion of these initial applications, applicants will be able within weeks to submit applications for cultivation licenses, followed thereafter for processing and retail stores;

4. The Ordinance contain fee schedules for all applications. Many public comments were received regarding the amount of the fees and the Tribe adjusted this in the final ordinance;

5. A “Tribal Cannabis Exchange” is established to facilitate the collection of fees, testing and availability of cultivated cannabis to retail stores;

6. The Exchange will be administered by the tribal regulating office, the SRMT Cannabis Compliance Office that is overseen and supervised by a new five-member board, the SRMT Cannabis Control Board;

7. The SRMT cannabis program is a “seed to sale” program — growing, processing, and sales all must take place on Tribal Territory; and

8. Businesses that have prematurely opened are currently subject to cease and desist orders and tribal court actions will be given one “last chance” to comply with the Ordinance. If they fail to comply (i.e. shut down their operations) by Thursday, July 1st they, and their owners and operators, will not be able to obtain a license under the Ordinance.

Tribal Chief Beverly Cook noted, “Some of our next steps will be to get the licenses approved, set up our Cannabis Exchange, and obtain the services of an approved testing company. To help us in this challenging process we have engaged the services of a top cannabis consulting company, Cannabis Public Policy Consultants. CPPC has worked with a states and tribes in establishing a number of successful cannabis programs.”

A callout for two (2) tribal members interested in serving on the five-member SRMT Cannabis Control Board will be issued in the coming weeks, as well as a callout for two (2) alternates.

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The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council is the duly elected and federally recognized government of the Saint Regis Mohawk People.