Cannabis, marijuana plant

A joint for high-rollers? If Florida Governor Rick Scott doesn’t accede to the Poarch Creek Band’s casino ambitions they’re going to start selling weed. (Image:

The Poarch Creek Band of Indians’ message to Florida Governor Rick Scott is simple: let us build some new casinos or we will grow and distribute cannabis instead.

We have no idea what it’s like to be the man in charge of Florida, but we imagine this news may have caused the governor to choke on his breakfast.

Scott has refused to negotiate with the Creeks so far because, he says, the tribe needs more recognition from the federal government.

The governor’s office recently stated that it would be “premature to engage in compact negotiations until it received an Indian lands determination from United States Department of the Interior.”

The tribe, which is based in Alabama where it operates three casinos but also owns land just across the border in Florida, is incensed and is clearly ready to play hardball.

Good Neighbors

“We are entitled to negotiate a compact with the state. We have 642 tribal members living throughout the state of Florida,” said Tribal Chair Stephanie Bryan. “We are asking Governor Scott to acknowledge we are a federally recognized tribe.

“We consider ourselves good neighbors and good natives. We are entitled to negotiate a compact with the state,” she added.

PCBI wants to operate bingo-style slot machines in pari-mutuels in Jacksonville, Pensacola and on land just outside Tallahassee. In return, it says it will return six permits it has in hand for other locations. The tribe’s business plan claims that the State of Florida would earn nearly $2 billion over the next 10 years.

The Creeks’ demands come at a critical time for casino gaming in Florida, as the state’s compact with the Seminole tribe is due to expire at the beginning of August. Under the current deal the Seminoles were given exclusive rights to spread blackjack at their seven casino properties in return for a cut of a minimum of $1 billion over five years.

Grass-roots Support

Now that deal is close to expiring, and the tribe has more than fulfilled its financial obligations, the Seminoles want to open several more casinos and add roulette and craps to its gaming tables. In return, the state would want a share of profits, to the tune of $2.5 billion a year. However, there’s no clear indication as to the precise nature of Scott’s negotiations with the Seminoles.

The Department of Justice ruled in December that tribes could legally grow and sell cannabis, provided they conformed to the federal regulations laid down for states that have legalized the drug. Last month the Pinoleville Pomo Nation in northern California’s Mendocino County announced it intends to become the first tribe to grow and manufacture medical marijuana on tribal land.

And it seems that the Creeks have some crucial grassroots support for their narcotic ambitions: “If it were my land, we’d be growing marijuana on it,” local man Todd Ferron enthusiastically told the Tampa Bay Sarasota news team.