The Shinnecock Indian Nation has formally opened for business to cannabis consumers of all stripes on eastern Long Island in New York – as long as they’re over 21 years of age.
The Little Beach Harvest dispensary, located at 56 Montauk Highway in Southampton – about three hours from Manhattan – had its grand opening on Wednesday, complete with a tribal ceremony and ribbon cutting before launching tax-free sales under the tribe’s Native American sovereignty.
“I am thrilled we are officially opened on Shinnecock Sovereign Territory. We look forward to serving the community and ensuring a first-class experience,” Shinnecock Nation Chairman Bryan Polite said in a statement. “This triumphant milestone is significant to our Nation as we enter the cannabis market, creating jobs, business alliances, and access to all. Our journey has just begun.”
The opening is the culmination of “eight years of lobbying, outreach, development, and planning,” according to the announcement. As a federally recognized Native American tribe, the Shinnecock created its own bureaucracy for overseeing its marijuana business internally, without oversight from the state of New York. Little Beach Harvest will report to the Shinnecock Cannabis Regulatory Division, according to the release.
The opening brings the number of operational legal adult-use marijuana shops to just 28 statewide, a spokesperson for the state Office of Cannabis Management confirmed. The OCM spokesperson also noted that Little Beach Harvest is not licensed or overseen by the state, which also means products at the shop are not mandated to be lab-tested for safety.
But the tribe has set up its own regulations and supply chain, including lab testing, said Little Harvest Beach managing director Chenae Bullock, who explained that the Shinnecock Nation’s Cannabis Regulatory Division has its own set of industry rules. Bullock said that currently, there are about six tribally-licensed growers and producers from whom her shop gets its inventory, along with growers in other New York tribes that also have their own cannabis facilities.
“All the products are tested … and also from our other tribes throughout the state, who also have very rigorous regulations, they’re also able to trade with us as well,” Bullock said, noting that a lot of representatives from other tribes – including from as far away as Idaho – had attended the grand opening to celebrate with the Shinnecock Nation.
“To have other (Native American) governments come and acknowledge that is huge,” Bullock said. “We’re not in this by ourselves.”
Bullock also clarified that the nation has not entered into any sort of formal compact or agreement with the state of New York or the administration of Gov. Kathy Hochul that would guarantee non-interference by law enforcement in the tribe’s cannabis business, but that she doesn’t expect any issues.
“There’s no concern there,” Bullock said. “They can’t meddle with us.”
The opening also follows the dissolution of a business partnership between the Shinnecock Nation and Tilt Holdings, which threw the future of Little Beach Harvest into question in September when Tilt pulled out.
The multistate operator originally committed to funding the buildout of Little Beach Harvest two years ago, along with agreeing to provide management services and other support. The tribe broke ground on the 5,000-square-foot dispensary last year and had hoped to open in April this year.
But Tilt got cold feet in September, citing broader market conditions in New York that made the state less attractive, including immense competition from thousands of gray market marijuana shops.
The tribe found other partners to help make the shop a reality, Polite said. He offered thanks to “Todd Bergeron of Connor Green, and Barre Hampe, a consultant for Connor Green,” for being financial and development partners.
“Their tireless efforts helped get the project over the finish line,” Polite said.
The Shinnecocks are just the latest Native American tribe to enter the cannabis industry under the protection of tribal sovereignty; many other tribes have also joined the marijuana trade in states such as California, Colorado, North Carolina, and Washington.