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Oneida Indian Nation to launch cannabis venture

By Traci DeLore (tdelore@cnybj.com)

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VERONA, N.Y. — Construction begins next month on the Oneida Indian Nation’s newest business venture, a full-scale, 50,000-square-foot cannabis cultivation and production facility on Hill Road in Verona. Retail locations, to be announced at a later date, are projected to open in late 2023 exclusively on nation lands.

“As more and more states across the country enter into the cannabis business, including neighboring states and other tribal nations, it is important that the Oneida people not be left out from taking advantage of this economic opportunity,” Oneida Indian Nation Representative and Oneida Nation Enterprises CEO Ray Halbritter said in a release. “We are excited about this new venture and are confident based on our expertise and proven track record with other highly regulated industries that we will be able to set the standard for developing a safe and successful adult recreational cannabis business on Oneida Indian Nation lands.”

The organization will create the Oneida Indian Nation Cannabis Commission, an independent regulatory oversight body, to oversee the safety and compliance of the cannabis business, which will be conducted in compliance with the 2013 settlement agreement between the Oneidas, the state, and Oneida and Madison counties. It has already adopted a cannabis ordinance and regulations that impose governance standards comparable to those in state cannabis laws including age restrictions, limitations on purchase amounts, employee-licensure requirements, and assurances of product safety and quality. The organization has also started discussions with the state Office of Cannabis Management to create a joint inspection partnership of the cannabis products.

The Oneida Indian Nation will collect and charge taxes at the same level as New York State and dedicate those tax proceeds to tribal government programs. The consumption of cannabis remains prohibited at Oneida Nation Enterprises venues including its casinos, hotels, restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues.

Construction of the cannabis cultivation and production facility will take place pursuant to a project labor agreement with the Central and Northern New York Building Trades Council. The Oneida Indian Nation describes this initiative as furthering its commitment to diversify its economic base and create separate revenue streams to support its government programs and services for the Oneida people including health care, education, public safety, and cultural preservation. The investment also creates new employment opportunities for the Oneida workforce and the community.

The Oneida Indian Nation’s portfolio of enterprises, which employ more than 4,500 people, include Turning Stone Resort Casino, YBR Casino & Sports Book, Point Place Casino, an RV park, convenience stores, and marinas. The Oneida Indian Nation has about 1,000 enrolled members, most of them living in Central New York.