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Former Seminole Chief Leads Partnership to Boost Legal Marijuana Industry on Tribal Lands

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He led the Florida Seminole Tribe when it challenged the U.S. Supreme Court over gaming on tribal lands. The legal victory helped kick start a gambling industry now estimated at more than $33 billion. Now former Seminole Chief James Billie wants to do for marijuana what the tribes achieved for gaming, aiming to make tribal producers the source for marijuana in a growing number of states that have legalized recreational and medical use of the drug.

Billie is partnering with Nevada-based Electrum Partners in the effort to bring investment and expertise to marijuana grow operations on Native American lands. Despite the shifting legal sands of cannabis use in multiple states, the drug remains illegal at the federal level, with a Schedule I classification that declares the drug to have "no currently accepted medical use" and "a high potential for abuse." Other Schedule I drugs include heroin and LSD.

Billie joins Gulf Coast Live to talk about the 29 states with some form of medical or recreational marijuana legalization, and the advantages he says tribal lands have as potential producers of a marijuana crop.

Also joining the show is Leslie Bocskor, president of Electrum Partners, about how tribes in Florida and others states like California could become growers in the $6.7 billion legal marijuana industry.

Matthew Smith is a reporter and producer of WGCU’s Gulf Coast Live.