Shinnecock tribal leaders lead the grand entrance procession at the 2015 Shinnecock Powwow
Shinnecock tribal leaders lead the grand entry procession at the 2015 Shinnecock Powwow

The Shinnecock Nation is planning to open a medical cannabis dispensary and cultivation facility on its tribal land in Southampton, after voting this weekend to pursue designation as a provider for patients in New York State’s medical cannabis program.

Members of the nation voted 83-34 to approve the project.

“As a people, we have always had a cultural appreciation for natural, holistic medicine and the difference it can make in the lives of those suffering most,” said Shinnecock Indian Nation Chairman Bryan Polite in a statement issued this week. “The New York State Compassionate Care Act was a big step in the right direction for administering quality holistic medicine to people suffering from very serious illnesses.”

The Obama administration introduced a budgetary provision in December of 2014 barring the U.S. Justice Department from using federal funds to enforce controlled substances laws in states that have legalized medical marijuana, piquing the Shinnecock Nation’s interest in becoming a part of the state’s brand new cannabis dispensary network.

Since then, at least 15 tribes across the United States have explored entering or have entered the medical cannabis industry.

The Shinnecock Nation plans to have its facilities owned by the tribe, but will hire industry consultants to train tribal members to manage and operate the facilities.

The revenue generated by the project would go toward tribal operations, including education, substance abuse programs, law enforcement and senior housing.

“This is an opportunity to create jobs for our members and true economic development to support tribal programs,” said Mr. Polite. “We are encouraged by the enthusiastic support of our members and look forward to continuing our discussions with the State of New York to make this a reality.”

New York’s medical marijuana program, signed into law in 2015, went into effect on Jan. 7, 2016. Two dispensaries opened on Long Island in late January — one in Lake Success and one in Riverhead. The state has currently approved five companies to produce medical cannabis and 20 dispensaries.

As of this week, more than 370 doctors have registered to prescribe medical marijuana and more than 800 patients have become certified as eligible for medical cannabis, which can only be dispensed in New York as tinctures, oils and capsules.

Only patients with cancer, HIV or AIDS, ALS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord damage, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathy and Huntington’s disease are eligible for medical cannabis in New York. They also must have one of the following symptoms: wasting syndrome, severe or chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, or severe or persistent muscle spasms.


Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at

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