Florida Compact Or Marijuana Farm

If Florida Governor Rick Scott doesn't start serious gaming compact negotiations with the Alabama-based Poarch Creek Band of Indians, allowing them to open a casino on their one-acre Escambia County tract, tribal officials said they could grow and sell marijuana there instead.

The Alabama-based Poarch Creek Band of Indians could have a proposition for Florida Governor Rick Scott. The tribe wants a gaming compact with the state to build a casino on a one-acre tract it owns in Escambia County, not far from its Atmore, Alabama operation. Tribal officials contend they have owned the land long enough to qualify for federally guaranteed rights. Or, they stated they could grow and sell marijuana there, since last December the U.S. Department of Justice said tribes could do that on their lands if they follow the same federal conditions as states that have legalized the drug.

Poarch Tribal Council Chairwoman Stephanie Bryan said, “We are entitled to negotiate a compact with the state. We have 642 tribal members living throughout the state of Florida. We are asking Governor Scott to acknowledge we are a federally recognized tribe. We consider ourselves good neighbors, good natives.”

Tribal officials have suggested they could file a lawsuit if Scott takes no action. His representatives met twice with Poarch officials last year but a Scott spokesman recently said the governor will not negotiate with the tribe. Scott’s position is that it’s “premature” to begin negotiations and that the tribe needs additional recognition from federal officials.

Poarch officials have offered a deal called the “I-10 consolidation plan,” under which the tribe would operate bingo-style slots in parimutuels near Interstate 10 in Jacksonville, Pensacola and just outside Tallahassee. In exchange, the tribe said it would return six permits it has for other locations. The plan would generate nearly $2 billion over the next 10 years for the state, Poarch officials said.

Recently the tribe started building a warehouse on its Escambia County land. Pam Pagel, who lives nearby, said, “I don’t think it will amount to much. They go back and forth from saying it will be a warehouse to saying it will be a gaming room.”