BAY MILLS — Bay Mills Indian Community will develop a community-owned marijuana business on its tribal lands across the state of Michigan.

According to a press release, this venture will be a vertically-integrated “seed-to-sale” business with locations throughout Michigan. According to Canabo Medical Clinic, “seed-to-sale” refers to intensive tracking required to satisfy legislation and enforce compliance. It is also used to refer to software platforms designed to assist in this task. The operation will be licensed and regulated under tribal law and proceeds will flow back to the Bay Mills Indian Community to benefit tribal members and community residents.

The first phase of the project will involve the conversion of tribally-owned land, located south of Sault Ste. Marie, into a marijuana grow, process and retail operation.

The potential production site, the Great Lakes Composites property, includes 110 acres of land that will be converted into a facility that can house upwards of 10,000 marijuana plants and will provide dozens of new jobs to the local community. It will take approximately one year for the initial planting to generate a product that can be brought to market.

“As product nears being ready for sale, the second phase of the operation will involve the development of several retail establishments around Chippewa County, including near Bay Mills Resort & Casino,” said Aaron Schlehuber, Bay Mills Indian Community in-house counsel.

As the community-owned business grows, Bay Mills intends to add new locations on its tribal lands throughout Michigan. Ultimately, Bay Mills will work to develop an intertribal cooperative, where marijuana product(s) produced by Bay Mills are sold by other tribes at tribally-owned retail establishments throughout the state of Michigan to benefit their tribal members and community residents.

Currently, there are no tribally-owned marijuana businesses operating in Michigan under tribal laws, although there are several instances of privately-owned, for-profit marijuana companies operating on tribal lands in Michigan under a license from the state.

“Bay Mills Indian Community has developed businesses to generate revenues for our tribal government, and to benefit our citizens and community,” said BMIC Tribal Chairperson Bryan Newland in a press release. “The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the urgency for us to find new sources of economic opportunity for our people. We don’t begrudge anyone else who has found a different way into this industry. At the same time, Bay Mills has no interest in turning over our sovereign lands to private, for-profit corporations who are regulated and taxed by the State of Michigan.”

Newland added their operations will focus on marijuana that is community grown and community owned.

In 2018, Michigan enacted the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, which authorizes the growing and sale of marijuana products under a strict regulatory and licensing process. The State’s laws, regulations, and tax structure do not apply to activities on tribal lands. In 2019, BMIC’s tribal citizens enacted tribal laws and regulations to authorize personal and commercial marijuana use on tribal lands.

“The state limits growers and processors to a certain number of plants, places heavy taxes and fees on the product, and restricts the amount of product an individual can buy. These are all things that Bay Mills is not bound by and we are looking at each of these areas as a built in advantage against the large corporate interests that have set up shop in Indian Country,” said Whitney Gravelle, Bay Mills Indian Community in-house counsel.

Bay Mills will announce details about its opening dates and partners as it continues to develop this project. The Sault News asked for any updates as of Thursday, Aug. 20, but no further details, such as the timeline and planning, were released.

However, Newland said this is an alternative to the corporate model that the state’s regulations facilitate. In Bay Mills, the benefits of the business will come back to the community.


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