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Native Tribes Find Opportunities in Hemp, Cannabis and CBD


Investments in the gaming and hospitality industries have proven beneficial for many Tribes, but leaders planning for the future must consider ways to diversify their economic investments. Maintaining a diversified investment portfolio is central to any long-term economic plan and can help deliver consistent returns while reducing overall risk.

Currently, cannabis is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, on the way to generating an estimated $146.4 billion by 2025 (according to Grand View Research). The industry is currently in its early-stages, which can mean that even modest investments now could greatly increase in value 5, 10 or 20 years down the road. As the industry finds its footing on a global scale new investment opportunities emerge every day.

Cannabis does carry lingering social stigmas that may keep investors away. Yet the plant itself is only one facet of a diverse industry that includes everything from “plant-touching” companies to “ancillary” businesses that support the cannabis industry. The following are some of the opportunities tribes and other private investor groups are exploring.

Creating Native-owned cultivation, manufacturing and/or retail operations

As the wave of legalization has slowly but steadily swept across the U.S., the unique sovereignty of Tribal nations has created potential for cannabis business opportunities in communities located in states where recreational-use and/or medicinal cannabis has been legalized.

Investments of this type can take many forms, whether focusing on cultivation, manufacturing, or retail, or the development of a vertically-integrated cannabis operation. This path gives the Tribe complete control over the business.

Leasing Tribal land to cannabis cultivators

In many areas of the country, there are far more aspiring cultivators than there are locations where they can grow. As a result, an emerging trend is the rise of cultivation facilities established by real estate groups or private businesses, which are then leased to cannabis cultivators.

A Tribe looking to invest in cannabis could identify open land or create a greenhouse/indoor cultivation facility that can then be leased to cultivators looking for space. This is an ideal option for Tribal leadership that may not want to take on the operational and legal complexities of cultivating cannabis, but can still benefit from an investment supporting the industry.

Private investment opportunities in cannabis

In recent years a number of leading cannabis companies have gone public, primarily on stock exchanges in Canada, and with a select handful of listed on the NYSE and NASDAQ. The best-in-class producers and retailers represent an intriguing option for private investors. Standard due diligence for purchasing shares of a public company apply equally to the cannabis industry.

Additionally, a number of ancillary companies, those serving the cannabis industry through technology, real estate, or other services, have also gone public and represent a potential investment option. A diverse portfolio that includes a balanced mix of “plant-touching” and “ancillary” businesses could be a low-risk entry into the cannabis industry.

Institutional investment opportunities

As a fast-growing global industry, many cannabis companies are actively searching for capital infusions to expand operations, fund research, launch new products, or enter new markets. There is heated competition for both private venture capital investments, and for institutional investments in newly public cannabis and cannabis-related companies.

Tribal leadership can consider establishing, or investing in, a private equity or venture capital firm and act as an incubator for emerging cannabis businesses. Establishing a fund in conjunction with the other options listed previously could produce a robust cannabis portfolio.

Considering hemp and CBD

While cannabis legalization gets headlines, related products like hemp and CBD are quietly establishing themselves as intriguing industries on their own. The path for growing industrial hemp has recently been opened by federal legislation and the uses of the product are endless. Similarly, CBD has launched a holistic medicine craze, is in great demand for a wide variety of products, and can be derived from non-cannabis sources.

If a Tribe chose to explore hemp and CBD as investment opportunity, they could follow any of the paths illustrated previously and swap out cannabis for hemp or CBD.

Finding the investment mix for your Tribe

The options provided above are just a sample of the opportunities available to investors. There are risks involved with any investment, and cannabis’ complex legal status creates further complications. As result, many traditional investors have been slow to move into the space. But for proactive investor groups, now is the time to get an early foothold in what will soon be a multi-billion dollar global industry.

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