A group of entrepreneurs have plans to open the first marijuana dispensary on the Crow Reservation. They have been ready for several months and are now just waiting for approval from the Crow tribe.
If all goes according to plan, the dispensary will be on Crow land right along Interstate 90 just east of the main Hardin exit.
The location couldn't be better, the entrepreneurs say.
"The research that was done on this place here, this is fee simple land owned by a non-tribal member," said Dylan Jefferson, a partner in Silverleaf Apsaalooke. "So with that, the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) and tribe don't have jurisdiction, or supposedly they don't."
The Crow Tribe was the first indigenous nation in Montana to embrace marijuana, passing an ordinance allowing dispensaries last year.
The same month the legislature granted one marijuana business license to each tribal government in Montana, but opening up dispensaries on native land has proven difficult.
"We have a real shot here," said James Vallie, a partner in Silverleaf Apsaalooke. "Turn on the lights right now. We just need that letter or the state just needs to give us the license."
Vallie and Jefferson know that firsthand.
They and their wives are the partners of the dispensary they hope to open called Silverleaf Apsaalooke.
They say they're able to legally get a license from the state but have not been able to get approval from the Crow tribe.
In a letter, the Montana Department of Revenue told the business: "We have learned that you will have to pass through tribal lands for this dispensary, therefore we need written permission from the Crow tribe allowing you access."
The department also says the business will need to be approved by the county, and Big Horn County Commissioners tell the state that's not an issue.
Vallie says he and his partners do not know why the business isn't being approved by the tribe.
He said because Silverleaf Apsaalooke is privately owned it would not interfere with the tribe's efforts to get into the marijuana business itself.
And he says silence from tribal leaders is frustrating.
"To every single entrepreneur that's out there that's native, you guys have a shot just like we do," Vallie said.
"Hey, let us entrepreneurs, trying to do something for Apsaalooke Nation," Jefferson said.
MTN News contacted the Crow tribe executive branch several times for comment, but we have not yet received a response.
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