Legal Marijuana Coming to South Dakota


Last month, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota legalized the sale and use of marijuana on tribal land. Now the tribe is poised to convert a bowling alley into a marijuana cultivation and processing facility with an adults-only onsite lounge for cannabis consumption.

Marijuana is strictly illegal in South Dakota. It is the only state in the union whose voters have rejected a medical marijuana initiative not once but twice. Possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor with a year in jail and possession of hash is a felony with ten years in prison. Even being in a room where there is marijuana stored can subject South Dakotans to a year in jail!

The Flandreau Santee Sioux are exercising their right as a sovereign nation to legalize marijuana, however, thanks to the Wilkinson Memo. That directive from the Bureau of Indian Affairs stated that sovereign Indian tribes will be as free from federal interference as the individual states when it comes to legalizing marijuana, so long as they follow the eight tenets laid out in the Cole Memo. That memo is what is allowing Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska to move forward with strictly-controlled legalization that minimizes exposure to minors, interstate trafficking, and criminal activity.

Tribal President Anthony Reider tells KELOLAND TV that the Flandreau tribe has always been “trail blazers” on controversial topics. “We were with the casino,” Reider notes, “we were the second compacted tribe in the United States, the first and largest casino in between Atlantic City and Las Vegas, so [controversy is] something that’s not new to us.”

South Dakota’s Attorney General Marty Jackley has been in talks with the Flandreau and questions their authority to legalize marijuana. Jackley wants guidance from the federal government on his belief that the Wilkinson Memo only gave a green light for legalization of marijuana to the tribes that exist in the states that have legalized marijuana, though nothing in the memo makes that stipulation.

The converted property will still contain a functional bowling alley, game arcade, and bar. Admittance will be limited to adults over 21 and medical marijuana patients over 18. Marijuana and its containers will be tracked with RFID tags. Customers will be limited to a one gram purchase that must be consumed within the lounge area. Reider believes the operation could eventually generate up to a million dollars a month for the tribe.

Russ Belville

"Radical" Russ Belville is a blogger, podcaster, and host of The Russ Belville Show, a daily two-hour talk radio show focused on the evolution of the legal marijuana industry in the United States. The program is airing live at 3pm Pacific Time from Portland, Oregon, on, with podcast available on iTunes and Stitcher Radio. Russ began his marijuana activism in 2005 with Oregon NORML, then in 2009 went on to work for National NORML, and found and direct Portland 2015.