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Warm Springs Tribes Work Out Pot Regulations, Taxes


Members of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs stand in line Thursday, Dec. 17., waiting to vote on a referendum that would legalize growing cannabis on the reservation.

Members of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs stand in line Thursday, Dec. 17., waiting to vote on a referendum that would legalize growing cannabis on the reservation.

Amanda Peacher/OPB

Earlier this month, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs members voted to allow marijuana cultivation on tribal land.

But before operations can get up and running, Warm Springs has to work out product regulations and taxes. Oregon Liquor Control Commission marijuana regulations don’t apply to tribes, leaving Warm Springs officials to oversee their own industry.

“We’ll be developing specific regulations,” said Don Sampson with Ventures, the Tribes’ business arm. He says the tribes are working closely with  state officials to develop regulations that mirror state policies.

“We’re doing it the right way,” said Sampson. “We’re making sure that all jurisdictions involved with this are on board. We’re making sure that we have a very clear business plan in place. We’re making sure that we have safety, security in terms of our operation.”

Sampson expects tax rates and prices of retail marijuana sold by the tribes to be the same as other retail facilities in the state. But it’s possible that some of the revenue from the state’s 17 percent tax on retail marijuana sales could go to the tribes. That’s just one of many issues the tribes are in conversation about with the state.

Tribal officials say the goal is to have the first marijuana for sale January 2017. The tribes are working with a Colorado firm to develop a 5-acre greenhouse facility, and learn how to cultivate marijuana as a greenhouse crop.

Sampson hopes that getting into this industry now will give the tribe early expertise and knowledge in the market. The tribe is likely to be the first in the nation to cultivate and process marijuana on a reservation. 

“We’re looking in some rural areas on the reservation that are securer, that have water, and that have electricity,” said Sampson. He’s also investigating options for using renewable resources to power the facility, such as the geothermal springs on reservation lands.

Warm Springs Ventures estimates the operation will create 85 jobs for tribal members and eventually bring in as much as $26 million. 

Marijuana consumption is not legal on the Warm Springs reservation. That would require a separate ballot initiative. Marijuana will be cultivated on the reservation, but sold in tribally-run retail facilities in places like Portland or Bend.

“We’re taking a very strategic approach to it. The tribe has concerns about alcohol and drug issues on the reservation, they don’t want to exacerbate that,” said Sampson. “That’s why we’re selling it only off the reservation.”

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