From DraftKings To Dope Kings: Bay Mills Expanding Into Marijuana

Written By Matt Schoch on August 26, 2020 - Last Updated on January 11, 2021

The Bay Mills Indian Community is entering the marijuana business.

The Upper Peninsula tribe, which also operates two casinos in Brimley, plans to break ground on a 10,000-plant indoor grow facility near Sault Ste. Marie, the tribe announced.

The 110-acre parcel will be licensed and regulated by tribal law of the sovereign nation. The organization will operate independently of Michigan’s burgeoning marijuana industry.

Bay Mills chairman Bryan Newland told MLive the tribe could break ground on the facility in early 2021.

Michigan voters legalized recreational marijuana use in 2018 and sales launched in late 2019. The tribe plans to compete with an industry projected to generate $1.5 billion for the state.

Bay Mills hopes marijuana industry can lift Michigan tribes

The Bay Mills announcement estimates about one year’s time from planting to selling.

The products will be sold at facilities near the Brimley casinos. There will also be sales on tribal land across the state, including parcels near Flint, Gaylord, and Port Huron. Bay Mills has also pursued building casinos in all of those locations.

According to MLive, Bay Mills explored partnerships with three regulated marijuana companies that are operating in Michigan. Newland also told the website that Bay Mills reached out to the Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency about a cooperative.

Looking ahead, the tribe now seeks to work with the state’s other Native American tribes about selling its marijuana on their lands and cutting them in on the revenue.

“Our operations will focus on marijuana that is community grown and community-owned,” Newland said, in a news release.

Bay Mills tribe not afraid of controversy

Going at it alone in the marijuana business is unlike the tribe’s approach to online gambling, where it partnered with an industry giant.

Bay Mills, which has about 2,000 members, recently partnered with DraftKings Sports Betting, a big fish in the gambling game.

DraftKings will launch Michigan mobile sports betting apps and online casino platforms after the state goes live for online gambling in the coming months. The Boston company also will brand a retail sportsbook at the tribe’s flagship Bay Mills Casino.

The Bay Mills Indian Community’s pioneering history is a point of pride, Newland said recently.

“We really kind of cleared the path for other tribes to follow here in Michigan,” Newland said in a recent webinar. “We’re very savvy as a tribe and as an organization when it comes to these issues.”

Indeed, Bay Mills launched the country’s first tribal casino with blackjack and slot machines in 1984, opening Kings Club Casino in Brimley.

According to MLive, the marijuana facility would be near the intersection of Interstate-75 and M-28, which is about 10 miles south of Sault Ste. Marie.

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Matt Schoch

A Michigan native, Matt has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Missouri and the Virgin Islands. A versatile sports reporter, Matt has covered sailing on the Great Lakes, cricket in the Caribbean, high school and pro playoffs, and the Olympics in Rio. He's also the host of the Locked On Pistons Podcast and producer of a documentary on Emoni Bates. A former blackjack dealer, Matt has studied the industry from all sides.

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