The Shinnecock Indian Nation believes that medical cannabis plays a crucial part in its economic sustainability going forward.
Located on the South Fork of eastern Long Island, the tribe recently took steps to make those beliefs become a reality. In early July, it began work on a 5,000-square-foot dispensary and a 2,500-square-foot lounge.
Once complete, the sites will be situated along the Montauk Highway and create roughly 100 jobs for Shinnecock members.
The self-governing nation takes immense pride in the natural resources it has on its land, which is vital for both cultural ceremonies and industry, including a food harvest and an oyster hatchery.
Medical cannabis fits right into this mindset, according to Chenae Bullock, a Shinnecock tribal member and head of Little Beach Harvest, the corporation leading the venture.
"It's showing that we are moving, a step in the right direction," Bullock said.
The Economic And Career Impact On Shinnecock Nation
No financial figures were given, but all parties believe the venture will provide substantial returns for Shinnecock Nation.
Conor Green Consulting partnered with the Nation on the venture. Despite centuries of disenfranchisement, the Nation remains warm, welcoming and determined to provide for their people, says Conor Green managing partner Todd Bergeron.
"To be able to help work with them on a significant economic engine like this goes far beyond the dollars and cents," Bergeron said.
Little Beach Harvest's Bullock explained how the dispensary helps strengthen group economics by recirculating revenue and careers in the community.
"When you bring jobs, you actually create group economics," Bullock stated, citing an adage her father used to say: "If you build a business properly, it will grow itself."
Hiring within the community should further that adage through native preference, Bullock added.
The Wellness Impact
Economic returns for the sovereign land aren't the only benefit.
There are health disparities in underserved communities, Bullock said. The wellness lounge and grow site will provide health solutions to its people, including ongoing mental health issues brought on by generational and insidious trauma.
Bullock also described the daily reminders of oppression that continue to affect many indigenous people's lives and minds. Mega mansions pepper Long Island, New York, along with signs that say it was established in the 1600s.
"What might be victory to the settlers is more insidious trauma for us to see, because it shows that this was the time that we began to be conquered," Bullock said.
In time, Little Beach Harvest hopes to provide mental health services to address some of the ongoing tribal health issues.
Next Steps For Little Beach Harvest
Conor Green's Bergeron expects the dispensary to open by year-end if "all the stars line up."
Meanwhile, cannabis is already healing the community by further connecting the generations.
"I've heard other elders say that it's actually brought them closer to their grandchildren and their great and their great-grandchildren," Bullock said.
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