Jonathan Hunt, vice president of cannabis consulting firm Monarch America, Inc., gives a tour of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe's marijuana growing facility on Oct. 16, 2015, in Flandreau, S.D. (Joe Ahlquist, The Associated Press)

South Dakota tribe halts plans for weed resort, stops pot cultivation

The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe will seek clarification from the federal government before proceeding with its plan to open the nation's first marijuana resort on tribal lands

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — An American Indian tribe slated to open the nation’s first marijuana resort is destroying its crop and temporarily suspending the project in South Dakota while leaders seek clarification from the federal government, according to the tribe’s attorney.

The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, which planned to open a lounge selling marijuana on New Year’s Eve, was the first tribe in South Dakota to legalize the drug following the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision last year to allow tribes to do so on tribal land.

Seth Pearman, the tribe’s lawyer, said in a statement Saturday to the Argus Leader newspaper that the tribe was destroying its existing crop and temporarily suspending its marijuana cultivation and distribution facilities. He said tribal leaders were confident that the venture would succeed after seeking clarification on regulations from the Justice Department.

“The tribe will continue to consult with the federal and state government and hopes to be granted parity with states that have legalized marijuana,” Pearman said.

Attorney General Marty Jackley told The Associated Press that the tribe’s attorney and local law enforcement informed him Saturday about the decision, which he said was “in the best interest of both tribal and non-tribal members.” Jackley acknowledged that he and tribal officials haven’t always agreed, but said their discussions about the issue have been good and promised to help the tribe as it moved forward. He said he planned to meet with tribal officials Monday or Tuesday.

Tribal President Anthony Reider didn’t immediately return voicemail and text messages from the AP seeking comment Saturday evening. Jonathan Hunt, vice present of Monarch America, a Denver-based marijuana consulting firm hired by the tribe, said a reported fire Saturday was caused by wood and not marijuana, but he declined further comment.

The tribe has said the project could generate up to $2 million a month in profit. But some state officials have questioned the plan, including Jackley, who has said any changes in tribal laws wouldn’t affect nontribal land or anyone who wasn’t a tribal member.

The tribe’s executive committee voted in June to make the sale and use of marijuana legal on its reservation in Moody County, about 45 miles north of Sioux Falls.

This story was first published on DenverPost.com