‘We’re In The Industry,’ Shinnecock Retail Pot Plans Weed Out Chance Of Long Island Opt Out

Apr 10, 2021

Local governments in New York have until the end of the year to decide if they will opt out of the legal sale of recreational marijuana. Any regional ban on Long Island would become moot as tribal businesses are being set up.

Rules to buy legal recreational marijuana will likely be different across Long Island and the rest of New York as local governments could choose to “opt out” of allowing sales in their municipality. That means cities, towns and villages would forgo a 4% sales tax — the state’s take is 9%. They also can’t stop residents from purchasing cannabis in the town next door.

“I’m of the mind that it’s going to be for sale anyway. And I think that we should regulate the types of places it’s available,” Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said. “ And maybe put some restrictions on where it can be used.”

Long Island town supervisors last week abandoned a regional plan to opt out when the Shinnecock Indian Nation in Southampton announced its plans to break ground on a medical marijuana dispensary and pot cultivation facility this month.

Bryan Polite, the Shinnecock tribal chairman, said if the entire federally recognized sovereign tribe votes in favor, they could begin recreational pot sales before the end of the year.

“Although we’re sovereign, we are following a similar path, as far as responsibility, vetting it through the community and looking at it in its totality,” Polite said.

"If our example is leading the way with the mindset on Long Island, and I think that's a good thing," he said, "because we've been very deliberate with the way we're trying to approach this program — where we mitgate some of the downsides to legalization but also to enhance our tribal programs and capabilities from this program — then it's a welcome change in our dealings with outside agencies."

Schneiderman said while he cannot control what they do on tribal land, local governments across New York can choose to regulate where it can be grown, sold and consumed.

State regulators plan to start licensing retail pot facilities by mid-2022. Polite said the tribe will also develop its internal pot licensing regulations.

“Even on a national level, we’re going to be one of very few tribally owned and operated cannabis dispensaries and cultivation facilities,” said Chenae Bullock, who operates the tribal cannabis company, Little Beach Harvest. “And that’s a big deal.

Bullock said the Shinnecock tribe will set the stage for communities that have been disproportionately impacted by drug policing to participate in pot’s economic boon.

“This is a plant that has been used by Indigenous people for thousands of years," she said. "The difference here is we’re in the industry now.

"We're beginning to see the intergenerational gaps, between the elders and the young, coming together, because young people are extremely educated on cannabis at this level," Bullock said. "And our elders, they come from a time where the war on drugs was a big influence on them — and unfortunately through the country. They are now having a kind of re-education of this sacred plant."

The tribe’s operations are expected to meet state standards and first be issued to those with state-issued medical marijuana cards — before retail pot becomes a cash crop.