Indigenous Innovation: How Tribal Nations Will Revolutionize the Cannabis Industry

Article by Marissa Novel, High Times


As the legalized medical and adult use cannabis markets begin to mature, one major game changer will be on the horizon: Tribal Nations. At the forefront of actively connecting indigenous people and the cannabis industry is Ultra Health, a cannabis company with ventures in multiple states.

Duke Rodriguez, CEO and President of Ultra Health, was available to answer a few questions about how the tribes will affect cannabis markets. Before founding Ultra Health in late 2010, Rodriguez served as the Chief Operating Officer, Board Member and Chief Financial Officer at Lovelace, Inc., a major healthcare company and HMO based in the Southwest. Rodriguez also served as the Cabinet Secretary of the State of New Mexico’s largest executive branch agency in 1996, and initiated statewide reform programs in welfare and Medicaid services. Before working for the State of New Mexico, Rodriguez was President and Chief Operating Officer of Diagnostek, Inc., an NYSE pharmacy benefit management company, with clients including Fortune 500 companies, major insurers and HMOs.

HT: What are some of the advantages Tribal Nations will have over traditional cannabis markets and dispensaries?

Duke Rodriguez: Tribes will develop a more responsive framework and adapt to changes in the marketplace. Some states have been restrictive and made political judgements on policy issues, including how long medical cards are valid, which conditions are covered and how potent products can be.

The tribes can create a robust and compliant model, while omitting the unnecessary red tape present in most partisan crafted models. American Indians will also be able to provide cannabis businesses with much needed services, like banking.

While these models will be robust and compliant, they will also be more streamlined and less duplicative. Many state programs were introduced as a political or a timing issue.

Because Indian Nations are generally a much smaller political body than a state or federal government, tribes will be able to overcome and avoid the state’s missteps by being able to change them more efficiently.

Native Americans will also have the advantage of building some of the country’s finest dispensaries.

The most visible example of this is Ultra Health’s partnership with the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe. An 84,000 square foot cultivation facility, as well as two prestigiously located dispensaries—one that is 15,800 square feet—are in the works on reservation land.

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