An Indian tribe has resulted in marijuana cultivation after having failed in establishing a gaming hall. The tribe is in a remote stretch of San Diego County. The Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel closed its 35,000-square-foot gaming hall in February 2014, after incurring under $50 million in debt.
Fortunately, it has transformed the vacant space into a high-tech medical marijuana operation and is leasing part of the property to growers who cultivate and distribute the drug to legal dispensaries throughout the state.
More than a dozen greenhouses are in various stages of construction awaiting more tenants in the building’s sprawling parking lot. The move has marked the tribe as the first in San Diego County to embrace the marijuana industry.
A memo dated December 2014 by the U.S. Justice Department declared that sovereign nations would not be prosecuted for growing pot on tribal land in states that had already legalized the drug.
The Santa Ysabel Resort and Casino opened in 2007 as it envisioned building a hotel to serve the hordes of gamblers who would surely flock there. However, that was not the case, there were too many other casinos closer to San Diego.
As a result, tribal leaders sought a new opportunity for the revenue source. They created laws regulating marijuana on the reservation and established the Santa Ysabel Cannabis Regulatory Agency and Cannabis Commission to oversee the fledgling venture.
In the last 18 months, marijuana cultivated at the site has been shipped to legal dispensaries across the state. In the meantime, law enforcement agencies across the region say they’re aware of the tribe’s marijuana operation and are taking a wait-and-see approach.
The Federal law prohibits the cultivation and distribution of marijuana, but current policy allows for a pot to be grown on reservations as long as a list of requirements is met. The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement it does not license, inspect, or regulate marijuana cultivation on tribal lands. The Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel is operating under tribal law and tribal authority in this case. Bob Miller, who is an Indian law attorney and professor at Arizona State University, said growing pot on reservations is a hot topic among tribal leaders across the country.