Seneca Nation getting into legal pot business with cannabis dispensary in Falls

Nov. 8—The Seneca Nation is getting into the legal marijuana business and part of the new operation will be located on sovereign territory in downtown Niagara Falls.

On Tuesday, after the official swearing-in of new president Rickey Armstrong Sr., the Senecas confirmed that construction work being done on property next to the Seneca One Shop fuel station at the corner of John B. Daly Boulevard and Niagara Street will lead to the opening of a cannabis dispensary.

The dispensary, which will operate under the name Nativa Cannabis, is scheduled to be completed early next year with Nation officials saying they hope to open the new business in February.

"After extensive research and planning, the Seneca Nation is excited to create a new, Nation-owned business in the growing and competitive cannabis market," Armstrong said in a release issued by the Nation. "Nativa Cannabis will join our other business enterprises, including our Seneca Resorts & Casinos properties, Seneca One Stop locations, and Seneca Gaming & Entertainment operations, in diversifying and strengthening our Seneca economy and generating much-needed revenue to support and fund critical programs and services for the Seneca people."

Seneca officials said the Nation will sell a "range of cannabis products" to people 21 and over out of a 2,500-square-foot building at the site where a Pizza Hut was located before the property was transferred over to the Senecas by the state for the purposes of developing the region's first Class III casino inside the former Niagara Falls Convention and Civic Center.

According to the nation, the dispensary will feature a drive-thru window where verified customers will be able to pick up pre-placed orders. Initial plans are for the dispensary to operate seven days a week, from approximately 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., with an estimated six to eight employees. Employment levels and operation schedules will be adjusted to meet demand once the business is up and running, Nation officials said.

In addition to the dispensary in the Falls, the Nation, through its development entity Seneca Development, plans to construct a cultivation facility on Seneca territory in the Southern Tier. The 90,000-square-foot building will allow for the initial cultivation footprint to be expanded to accommodate additional future sales demands, Seneca officials said.

The Nation has been working for the last several months with Opus Consulting, a Portland, Maine-based company, to develop plans for a vertically-integrated cannabis industry. The adult-use cannabis industry is estimated to grow to $2.6 billion in New York by 2027, officials noted.

This year marks 20 years of operation of Seneca Niagara Casino, which opened to the public on Dec. 31, 2002 following a $100 million overhaul of the city's old convention center. The Nation followed with the construction of its 26-story, 604-room hotel and more recently completed a $40 million upgrade to the casino entrance area. Seneca One Stop Fuel station opened amid controversy in December 2016.

Nation leaders say the Senecas have now invested more than $1 billion in various gaming operations and companies in Western New York and those businesses have created thousands of new jobs in and around Erie, Niagara and Cattaraugus counties.

"Achieving financial sovereignty remains our ultimate priority," said Seneca Nation Treasurer Matthew Pagels. "The Seneca Nation has proven that, when presented with an opportunity, we can create industry-leading businesses on our territories that deliver substantial economic benefits to our people and to the surrounding region. Nativa Cannabis is the next chapter in our growth."