Jonathan Teeters, the Assistant General Manager of Remedy Tulalip — a new state-of-the-art retail recreational cannabis store, with 70 employees trained and at the ready — says things are moving at a dizzyingly accelerated pace as they prepare to open to the public on Friday August 10th.
“I'm excited for the tribe,” says Teeters. “This really is sheer excitement. Of course there is anxiety with that comes along with launching a new venture and 70 new employees. This has been years in the making for the tribe and I have been on the project for 9 months. We are almost there.”
The Tulalip Economic Development Corporation (TEDCO) is opening the doors to Remedy Tulalip, its flagship retail cannabis store, and is among the first cannabis dispensaries in the United States to open on a reservation. Remedy Tulalip is another addition to the retail sector in Quil Ceda Village, the Nation’s second federally-recognized city, and a consolidated borough of the Tulalip Tribes which sees approximately 15 million visitors annually.
As one of only four tribes in Washington State in the retail cannabis business, the tribe says Remedy Tulalip aims to be the top-performing retail store in Washington, and will serve as a symbol for the role that Indian Country will play in a rapidly expanding industry.
Les Parks, one of the elected Tulalip Tribes' council members, who has served for over 17 years, says the tribe is positioned to show that Indian Country is poised to become leaders in an emerging cannabis market.
“It's been a long time coming for Tulalip,” Parks told Indian Country Today. “We are a tribe very astute in business matters and over the years we have become well-acquainted on how to take on business the right way. We could have jumped out of the gate very quickly and opened the first store in the state, but we were wisely deliberate in our negotiations with the state of Washington.”
“We took our time because we wanted to do things the Tulalip way. We are going to open a store that is very unique to Washington. We already get 15 million visitors a year coming through our Quil Ceda Village, and that number is going to jump dramatically now with a cannabis store.”
Where is the product coming from?
Teeters told Indian Country Today that one of the key efforts fostered by the tribe is outreach to locally-licensed vendors with an emphasis on Native-owned businesses.
“We are outsourcing to every dispensary in Washington state and are working with the best 502-licensed suppliers. We have a buying strategy that places an emphasis on smaller brands and have a section of our budget dedicated to purchases from Native American owned or affiliated brands. We are featuring this in our store and it is part of the story we sell.”
“We are lifting the industry by expecting and supporting excellence from all of our suppliers," says Teeters. "While much of the industry works from a bottom-up model, we have intentionally flipped that to focus on high-quality and hand-curated products that reflect the Tulalip brand.”
Teeters also says the reason the Tulalip set such a high expectation is that they know they are setting a new bar.
“Everyone is watching and if they are going to follow us, we need to make sure we have the road map. That's why we pay attention to detail, that's why we have been training for almost a month. We want to have these folks ready to work in an industry they are not familiar with. Some of these folks have never even worked retail.”
Taxes, profits and sovereignty
Teeters says residing in the state of Washington is a legislative-plus in terms of a maturing cannabis industry, but there are considerations. While the taxes on sales will go to the tribe, there are regulations to traverse.
“It's hard to articulate the legalese of this, but there is a firewall of sorts between the government-side and our Economic Development Corporation. In Washington we are in a fairly mature industry, and we do have banking solutions, but of course there is a challenge since we are in Indian country,” says Teeters.
“The FDIC has a different definition for a sovereign entity and in general one of our biggest challenges in the cannabis industry, is the ability for us to leverage sovereignty in some way, and to be innovative and find things that work. Sovereignty is a great tool when it is used properly.”
Parks says that as a member of the Tulalip Tribes Board of Directors, he sees great things coming profit-wise with retail cannabis, though it wasn’t where they first wanted to go.
“A recreational marijuana facility wasn't necessarily where we wanted to go initially, because we do think there are some greater opportunities with cannabis along the medical side. We initially started to explore that option, but we thought the potential for 10 to 20 million dollars a year from a cannabis recreational store would get us to the bigger endeavors of what we envisioned with medical discovery side.”
Well-wishes from Alaska
Jennifer Canfield, Dena'ina Athabascan, is the owner of the Green Elephant cannabis dispensary in Juneau, Alaska. She says she was thrilled to learn of the Tulalip Tribes efforts’ in retail cannabis, but also offered words of insight learned from over a year in business.
“I am proud to know that Tulalip is doing this, I wish them all the success and luck in the world. I think their biggest advantage is their capital and purchase power as a successful tribe that has already done well in gaming, thus giving them an edge on the industry,” says Canfield.
“My one concern is the growing list of carpetbagger consultants and experts charging fees. There are genuine professionals charging for legitimate insights, but there are also unscrupulous people who are taking advantage of the situation in this so-called ‘green-rush.’ Just like the story goes, in the California Gold Rush, those who got richest were the ones selling the picks and axes.”
Canfield says though there are concerns, she feels confident the Tulalip will be a leader in the industry.
Opening day excitement
With his closing thoughts, Teeters says things are looking bright and he can’t wait for the store to open amidst jitters. He has even been posting the progress of the store’s opening on Instagram.
“As I have been telling everyone as we are getting closer to the big day, we are crowning, we are crowning!”
Parks shares the enthusiasm of Teeters.
“We've got a lot of big plans I am excited about what we are doing here. It is a small store by my standards, but it's probably going to be the most profitable store in the state of Washington,” he says.
“Within a year we will climb to the top of the charts, and we will find very quickly that we need a second location and probably a third location in Tulalip. This is just another stepping stone in Tulalip success.”
The Remedy Tulalip retail store will be open to the public Friday August 10th, with a preview opening to the Tribe on Thursday.
Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor and senior correspondent, Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter - @VinceSchilling