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Tribal Referendum Seeks Membership Approval on Cannabis Negotiations

Mar 24, 2022

AKWESASNE -- The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe announced it is seeking permission from tribal members to begin negotiations with New York State on an agreement to allow tribally licensed businesses to sell cannabis products off Akwesasne Territory. A tribal referendum has been scheduled for Ohiarí:ha/June 4, 2022 that, if approved, will initiate negotiations on a tribal-state agreement for tribally licensed entrepreneurs to distribute and sell cannabis products throughout the State. If tribal members approve, the Tribe will negotiate an agreement that will also be brought back to the membership for approval.

“As drafted, our Adult Use Cannabis Ordinance is a “seed to sale” program where we regulate cannabis licensing on our territory,” shared Tribal Chief Beverly Cook. Chief Cook added, “A negotiated agreement will give our tribally licensed cannabis businesses the opportunity to sell their products, where it’s permitted in New York State, that are regulated and proven safe.”

The Tribe’s Adult Use Cannabis Ordinance represents the first adult use cannabis law enacted by a tribe in New York State and is the first in the United States that regulates and licenses tribal member-owned operations. Making the tribally licensed cannabis industry more attractive for local entrepreneurs is New York State’s prior adoption of the Marihuana Regulations and Taxation Act, which allows Tribes to negotiate a tribal-state agreement for the sale of licensed cannabis products outside of tribal territory.

“During the development of the Tribe’s Adult Use Cannabis Ordinance, it was indicated that a short window exists for tribally licensed business owners to sell their cannabis products before they become available elsewhere through state-licensed retailers,” stated Tribal Chief Ron LaFrance. Chief LaFrance noted that, “It would require a tribal-state agreement that tribal members will need to approve, but before that can take place we are first seeking approval from membership to begin negotiating with the State.”

Prior to the tribal referendum, three public meetings will be conducted to share information and respond to questions from tribal members about a possible tribal-state agreement. The first meeting will take place on Wednesday, April 6th beginning at 5:00 p.m. and will be held virtually using Zoom. The link for tribal members to join the meeting is located on the Tribal Members Portal. The dates and times for additional public meetings will be shared when finalized.

Pursuant to TCR 2022-13 signed by the Tribal Council on March 17th, the June 4th tribal referendum will present the following question to eligible voters: “Do you approve of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, in coordination with its Adult Use Cannabis Licensees, to enter into discussions with New York State on an agreement that would allow tribally-licensed cannabis businesses to sell their products in New York State, outside of tribal territory?”

If approved, the Tribe will move forward to negotiate an agreement for tribally licensed businesses to distribute and sell adult-use cannabis products in the State, with the exception of municipalities that have opted out of making cannabis available for retail sale. The resulting agreement will be presented in another referendum for tribal members to approve.

“We’re pleased that tribally licensed cannabis business owners may have a jumpstart into a larger market beyond Akwesasne, but that decision will be decided upon by tribal voters. They will make the decision on June 4th if an agreement should be negotiated, or if no further action should be pursued,” stated Tribal Chief Michael Conners.

Register for the first public meeting by clicking on the following:


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