By Dylan J. Darling

The Bulletin

The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs may be entering the burgeoning business of recreational marijuana production.

It all depends on a vote that was being taken Thursday. While the votes were expected to be tallied by about 9 p.m. Thursday, the tribes probably will not announce a decision until today, said Glendon Smith, secretary-treasurer for the tribes.

“Before the numbers can be released to the media, the Tribal Council needs to certify the results,” he said Thursday afternoon.

The council is set to meet at 9 a.m. today in Warm Springs.

Although wintry weather canceled work at tribal offices Thursday, the vote went on for the cannabis referendum.

Around 6 p.m., KWSO, the tribes’ radio station, posted a reminder on its Facebook page that polls would be open until 8 p.m. It also said that rides were available for people looking to make it to the polls.

“Load up your friends and go vote!” the post read.

Tribal members are considering whether to approve building an up to 36,000-square-foot marijuana greenhouse on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. The reservation near Madras is the largest in Oregon. If approved, the operation could bring in more than $173 million in net income in its first seven years, according to Warm Springs Ventures, the business arm of the tribes. The project would create a minimum of 82 new jobs, including managers earning $45,000 to $85,000.

For the vote to be valid, at least 30 percent of the more than 3,300 tribal members must cast a ballot. Of those, at least 51 percent must vote for the marijuana project for it to move forward. The tribes would be the first in Oregon to establish a recreational marijuana-growing operation. Sentinel-Strainwise, a partnership of a Florida investment firm and a Colorado marijuana grower and seller, would help the tribes start the project. The companies came together to help Native American tribes establish marijuana businesses on reservations.

While there had been absentee ballots mailed in for the vote, Smith said tallying them would not start until late Thursday.

“Nothing has been counted yet,” he said Thursday afternoon.

The marijuana would be sold at three proposed retail stores owned by the tribes in Bend and Portland, according to Warm Springs Ventures.

The greenhouse is expected to be built and running by spring or summer 2016, if the project is approved. Under tribal law, marijuana would remain illegal to possess or sell on the reservation.

While the Oregon Liquor Control Commission regulates recreational marijuana in Oregon, which became legal on July 1, Gov. Kate Brown’s office would be leading talks if Warm Springs enters the business, said Mark Pettinger, OLCC spokesman.

“We would be supporting whatever discussion or whatever back-and-forth there would be between the governor’s office and the tribal national leadership,” he said.

Voter approval would be just the first step in the tribes entering the marijuana industry, Chris Pair, Brown’s press secretary, wrote in an email.

“If the referendum passes, the governor’s office looks forward to discussions with the tribe to explore how to move forward, whether in the form of a compact or otherwise, in a way that ensures a safe and transparent entry into Oregon’s marijuana market,” he wrote.

— Reporter: 541-617-7812, ddarling@bendbulletin.com

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