Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

This 23-Year-Old Native American Is Boosting Tribal Cannabiz

Legal marijuana offers an opportunity for economic and cultural revival for Native American tribes.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In a recent article, Entrepreneur introduced three teenage girls who founded a CBD business of their own. However, these adolescent women are not the only youngsters getting involved in the cannabis and hemp industry.

Tssa Nesunkwa | Facebook

Another youthful man going into business is Trent Griffith, a western Shoshone from Ely, Nevada. “I am an enrolled member of the Ely Shoshone Tribe and also am a member of the tribal council. I am a self-driven individual that wants to better my community,” he says.

Griffith serves as the manager of the Tsaa Nesunkwa dispensary and cultivation operations in Ely, Nevada. “We're a high paced, medically focused company. We believe in a quality experience with customers as well as good relationships with our neighbors,” he explains.

Related: Why These Teenage Girls Started a CBD Lifestyle Brand

‘A New Era’

I first heard about Tsaa Nesunka from Neko Catanzaro, a friend who works in cannabis PR. “A new era of Native American tribal business leaders have built a thriving cannabis industry in Nevada, boosting business opportunities and providing much needed tax revenue to social programs and government services,” she told me. “Trent Griffith has spear-headed this economic revival as manager of Tsaa Nesunkwa dispensary and cultivation operations.”

Tsaa Nesunkwa received a license with the assistance of Tribal Cannabis Consulting, a national consulting firm specializing in Native American cannabis policy. “The firm was instrumental in establishing the first cannabis compacts between the Governor’s Office and the Ely Shoshone and Yerington Paiute tribe,” a company representative said.

“Tribes have a lot of issues like depression, suicide, alcoholism, diabetes and unemployment,” Griffith said. “The cannabis industry can provide the economic boost for tribes to sponsor cultural events such as powwows, plant gatherings and language programs. I believe that through these events that bolster the culture of our people, coupled with the leadership of our Tribal Council, we can combat these issues that we deal with on a daily basis.

“It’s not all about making money, but [also about] bettering our community as a whole. I am grateful that the Ely Shoshone Tribal Council, The Ely Shoshone Tribe, and The City of Ely have come together to allowed this to happen. They are providing a better future for seven generations and on, for the community as a whole.”

Related: She Wants to Change the Face of the Industry

Minorities, Report

Interested in his experience as a minority in the cannabis industry, I asked Troy to share some advice for other people who are part of a minority group and are looking to get into the cannabis industry.

“The time is now for minorities to get into this industry and become leaders of something great. It seems hard and has many challenges but if you work hard and put in the effort you can make it happen,” he said.

Related: America's History with Cannabis? It's Complicated.

When prompted about his personal reason to get into cannabis, both the plant and the business, he said:

The plant itself is rather beautiful and so interesting, with many different beneficial compounds. I got into this industry because I've seen the decline of my tribe’s language and culture; funds [generated from cannabis] flow for beneficial programs. I see this industry as an answer for funding problems that many tribes have.

The biggest challenge [I faced getting into the industry] was probably braking the stigma that has been long associated with cannabis – especially in a rural community. We solved it by educating people on the medicinal benefits as well as the economic benefits that the industry could bring to the tribe.

“Build it and they will come,” he concluded, quoting the movie Field of Dreams.