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Fast Company Magazine: 6 Branding Lessons from the Pioneers of Weed Design


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The marijuana industry never had room for professional design while stuck in the criminal sector. For decades, goofy stoner iconography, such as pot-leaf decals and so much tie-dye, were the de facto brand of marijuana in the popular imagination. Product packaging was limited to cellophane baggies and the tools of commerce (head shops, guys on bicycles) operating discreetly.

But in the wake of Colorado’s historic decision to legalize marijuana for recreational use, states are lining up—and so are designers, entrepreneurs, architects, and advertisers. An estimated $2.34 billion worth of legal weed will be sold in 2014. The pot industry is poised to grow faster than the smartphone industry. We’re at the cusp of a gold rush to commercialize the plant and create products for emerging marijuana markets like health care and luxury accessories. We’re seeing the emergence of everything from diamond-encrusted vaporizers to cannabis-infused pet food. For designers and branding professionals, landing a marijuana account may become as coveted as landing a liquor or car account.

So what do designers need to know about this emerging marketplace? Co.Design culled insights on the burgeoning industry from four cannabis industry experts: David Bienenstock, a cannabis consultant and former editor at High Times; Cheryl Shuman, an L.A.-based PR and marketing consultant known as the “Martha Stewart of Marijuana Branding;” James Kennedy, founder of Apothecanna, the first U.S. skincare company licensed to use cannabis flower extracts in its products; and Ryan Mungia, author of Pot Shots, a book about California’s marijuana dispensaries.

Many people spent years in legal battles, fighting for a substance that they believed was wrongly demonized. “There is nothing more important than building trust,” James Kennedy, founder of Apothecanna, tells Co.Design. “This starts by showing respect for the plant, respect for the customer, and respect for those who have fought hard to enable us to have this conversation.”

That’s good advice for corporate America . To be successful, it’s smart to get schooled in the work of thought leaders and cultural experts who arrived before you. Corporations that think they are going to legitimize marijuana may appear to be “insensitive and dismissive to people who have risked their freedoms and put themselves on the line personally,” Bienenstock says, “the people who built this movement to the point where we can become a legal industry.”

Bienenstock points to the company Diego Pellicer as a lesson in what not to do. In May 2013, former Microsoft executive Jamen Shively founded Diego Pellicer, a company he boasted would pioneer “Big Marijuana” and become the “Starbucks of bud.” In a press conference, Shively said Diego Pellicer was already “the most recognized brand in an industry that does not exist yet.”

Shively’s remarks earned him widespread criticism from veterans of the marijuana industry, including Bienenstock, who called him “The 40-Year-Old Pot Virgin” in Vice. The industry, Bienenstock points out, has existed in the underground for decades. Shively’s well-meaning but uninformed approach to branding could, Bienenstock says, alienate more experienced smokers. It doesn’t help that he said he’d sell his product for an overpriced $50 a gram—on the black market, a gram goes for $10 to $20. Pot-smokers aren’t fools.

“Women are the secret to this whole thing,” says L.A.’s Cheryl Shuman, a branding advocate for marijuana products and a pot entrepreneur. “I’m a mom in my fifties, and I try to make products that women want to buy,” she explains. After all, women buy 85% of all household and consumer products, according to Adweek.

Shuman calls these successful working women who smoke pot “stiletto stoners.” But the potential audience for marijuana-laced products is vast. Medicinal users may include ill grandparents and, yes, children with chronic or life-threatening illness. (Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia already have laws on the books concerning medical marijuana.) Shuman, who works as Brand Ambassador for HempMedsPX, a corporate portfolio company of Medical Marijuana, Inc., credits medical marijuana with helping her through cancer and injuries from two car accidents.

Bienenstock says that marketers will soon realize that they can openly cater to a diverse set of consumers. “When it becomes a fully accepted legal product, like beer, you’re going to see all kinds of branding,” he says, “towards women, towards the health conscious, and towards the people who associate it with being an outlaw herb used for partying.”

There are legions of suit-wearing smokers who are only now coming out of the closet, and this particular constituency will create a market for high-end weed products, whether that means expensive strains of the plant or fancy smoking devices.

Shuman plans to capitalize on this. “We’re creating a vaporizer line called the Haute Vape: a 14-karat-gold vaporizer encrusted with diamonds. I see these products being sold at Neiman Marcus or Bloomingdale’s,” Shuman says. Glitzy bongs for Madison Avenue moms might sound like a joke, but Shuman believes luxury marijuana products will be a boom market.

Celebrity endorsements of weed brands will also take off once the plant is fully legalized. “I have a lot of celebrity friends who love to use cannabis instead of alcohol—to come home and have a puff instead of a glass of wine,” Shuman says.

Pot poster boy Snoop Dogg himself recently designed a line of blinged-out vaporizers, dubbed the G Pen Herbal Double G Series, in partnership with Grenco Science, a high-end vaporizer company. Each sleek $99.95 vape is engraved with Snoop’s signature and printed with a stylized map of his hometown of Long Beach, California.

Educating inexperienced consumers may constitute the biggest and most delicate hurdle for the new industry. “The marijuana marketplace is extremely confusing territory in regards to the benefits, serving size, and intended use of a product,” Kennedy says.

Consumers might not understand dosage measurements, for example, or the differences between various cannibinoids such as THC and CBD. In short, THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical component of weed that gets you high. CBD, or Cannabidiol, another chemical found in marijuana, has no psychoactive effect, but research has shown that it has powerful medicinal benefits, from inhibiting cancer cell growth to treating anxiety and epilepsy. (Read more about cannibinoids here.)

Based in Denver, Kennedy’s company Apothecanna sells topical pain creams and sprays containing CBD, with simple, brightly-colored and informative labels. When he first started his company, Kennedy found that most bud growers selling his products had never heard of pain-relieving topical CBD products.

“The solution was maintaining a minimal, clinical appearance for the product packaging,” Kennedy says. Apothecanna’s designers focused on clearly conveying the functions of their products’ ingredients. “We tried to keep it as simple as possible so a customer could solve the equation on their own without relying on an expert explanation from someone working at the shop.” His advice is to understand the purpose of the product and to communicate its benefit through an engaging story.

Highlighting marijuana’s extensively researched medicinal effects—which enabled its legalization—will boost any branding campaign. “What we’re building is a Whole Foods type of branding,” Shuman says. “It’s not about getting high or stoned or intoxicated—it’s about an overall sense of wellness, healing, and proper nutrition. If we discovered cannabis or hemp in the Amazon jungle today, it would be heralded as the new superfood.”

The medical side of the industry is, after all, where many of the most game-changing and promising innovations are cropping up. In August 2013, Mary’s Medicinals released the first transdermal THC patch. The same year, Dr. Bruce Bedrick introduced the MedBox, the world’s first marijuana vending machine. (It doesn’t just pop out joints like bags of chips—it sits behind the counter at dispensaries, accessible only by clerks using fingerprint identification technology, to ensure that the process of filling prescriptions is safe and efficient.

Gone are the days of discrete stores with blacked-out windows. SPARC, a San Francisco dispensary known as the “Apple store of pot” won an American Institute of Architects Award in 2011. Designed by high-end architecture firm Sand Studios, SPARC’s clean, modernist façade and open-shelved interior looks every bit the upscale retail outlet.

Ryan Mungia, author of Pot Shots, took a look at the evolving aesthetic of marijuana stores in his book. “As pot continues its shift into the mainstream, I would imagine more dispensaries will utilize architects and designers as a way to offer their customers a sense of legitimacy and cache to what many still consider to be a questionable industry,” he tells Co.Design.
The Farmacy in Los Angeles is another example of the direction dispensaries might head. Each of its outposts in the city have a customized logo, and sell a range of products from cold remedies to beauty creams to vegan edibles and acupuncture services. While some outlets will continue to rely on stoner iconography and head shop mentality, others will commission architects and interior designers to create a dispensary aesthetic.

Imagine whiskey-infused shampoo, or a line of gourmet tobacco cookies, or spritzing your dog’s kibble with tequila. You quickly start to realize how much of an edge cannabis has over the legal vices it’s often compared to. (Yes, companies such as Canna-Cat sell medical cannabis specifically for neurotic pets.)

Unlike alcohol and tobacco, the versatile plant can be used medicinally as well as recreationally. It can be woven into clothing or added to skin creams. It can be smoked, ingested, or vaporized, through devices diamond-encrusted or 3-D printed.

So, will you take it to the next level and be the first to 3-D print marijuana accessories? It’s a new frontier, and basically anything goes. That said, watch your step as you reach out.


EL Pais Meets the Cannabis Queen of Beverly Hills Cheryl Shuman

La reina del cannabis de Beverly Hills
Cheryl Shuman gestiona un fondo de 106 millones para invertir en negocios de marihuana y preside un club con 1.700 miembros, entre ellos, la élite del espectáculo
PABLO XIMÉNEZ DE SANDOVAL Los Ángeles 13 FEB 2015 – 19:52 CET

Cheryl Shuman, habla sobre el negocio de la marihuana en su casa de Beverly Hills en California. / CORDON PRESS

A los 24 años, Cheryl Shuman había salido de la pobreza, se había hecho millonaria vendiendo cupones descuento en Los Ángeles, se había arruinado otra vez, y malvivía en su coche. Encontró trabajo en una óptica de Encino, al norte de la ciudad, por cuatro euros la hora. “Un día, las otras chicas estaban fuera fumando y yo estaba sola en la tienda. Y entonces entró Michael Jackson”. Era la época de Thriller, a principios de los ochenta. Iba disfrazado para que no lo reconocieran, lo pasaba mal por la calle, cuenta Shuman.

“Entonces le dije que si quería podía atenderle a domicilio”. A Jackson le encantó la idea de no tener que salir de su casa. Cuando fue a su mansión, Shuman le adaptó unas gafas con medios precarios. “Me dijo, ¿puedo recomendarte a gente?”. Me ayudó a comprar un equipo y me mandó a George Lucas, John Landis, Quincy Jones, Paula Abdul, su hermana… En 30 días había ganado 14.000 dólares (12.500 euros), me había puesto de nuevo en pie y le dije a mi jefe que lo dejaba”.

Dicen que Los Ángeles, capital mundial del show business, es una ciudad que se pone a tus pies si tienes una buena historia que contar. La de Cheryl Shuman es de las mejores. Empresaria, madre soltera, arruinada, tres veces millonaria, superviviente de cáncer y, en los últimos años, reina de la distribución de marihuana entre la élite del espectáculo. Shuman se ha hecho famosa como presidenta del Beverly Hills Cannabis Club y tiene una misión: “Conseguir que consumir marihuana sea tan normal como tomar vino con la comida”.

El encuentro con EL PAÍS se produce por la noche en el legendario bar Rainbow del Sunset Strip, la zona oeste de Sunset Boulevard en la que varias generaciones de músicos y estrellas han protagonizado todo tipo de excesos para alimentar su leyenda, algunos hasta el punto de morir en esta calle. Shuman había citado ese día a mujeres que quieren empezar negocios relacionados con la marihuana, para hacer una sesión de networking y darles una charla motivacional sobre sus propios logros. “Empezó como una convocatoria para 15 personas y se han presentado 40”, decía mientras intentaba organizar las mesas.

Cheryl Shuman, en un rueda de prensa para defender un dispensario de marihuana en Los Ángeles.
“Este es un programa de patrocinio para ayudar a la gente a meterse en la industria”, explicaba Shuman. Una por una, las participantes se iban presentando. “Hola, soy Kim, soy interiorista. Estoy harta de dispensarios de marihuana oscuros, quiero conocer gente y entrar en la industria”. Otra: “Hola, soy fotógrafa y estoy lanzando el primer sitio de fotografía y vídeo especializado en marihuana”. Una tercera decía que era médico y que en realidad la marihuana no le importaba mucho: “Estoy aquí para hacer dinero”. Una empresaria amiga suya, enseñaba su último producto, caramelos para perros con marihuana. “Es para perros nerviosos”, dice.

Shuman encuentra tiempo para seguir contando la historia que la ha traído hasta aquí. A mediados de los noventa, lo que empezó con unas gafas para Michael Jackson era una empresa valorada en 20 millones de euros llamada Starry Eyes. Shuman no solo hacía las gafas de sol para estrellas como George Clooney o Tom Cruise, sino que proveía a productores, directores y directores artísticos para las películas. Antes, tenían que comprar gafas a bulto y probarlas. Ella empezó a llevar muestrarios a domicilio. “Hice todas las películas de gafas, desde Terminator 2 hasta Misión Imposible”. De ahí, sus contactos con las estrellas.

Su acercamiento con la marihuana llega en 1996, tras una tormentosa relación sentimental. Bordeando un estado depresivo, su psicólogo un buen día le dijo que se hiciera un porro. “Pensé que estaba en una cámara oculta”. Ese año se aprobó el uso médico de la marihuana en California. Shuman montó una granja de marihuana en el norte del Estado y empezó a vendérsela a su lista de contactos profesionales, las estrellas, y con el método que sabía que funcionaba, a domicilio. “Yo había trabajado con Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Justin Timberlake, Paul McCartney. A toda esa gente le encanta la marihuana”.

Hoy el Beverly Hills Cannabis Club lo componen 1.700 miembros, de los cuales “unos cien” son la verdadera élite del espectáculo, los productores y directores más importantes. En el club pueden comprar a domicilio “el mejor cannabis del mundo, todo natural y orgánico”, a 620 euros la onza (28,3 gramos).

En 2006, le diagnosticaron un cáncer que la dejó postrada en un hospital. Empezó a tratarse con cannabis a través de un amigo. Afirma que en 60 días pasó de estar prácticamente en estado vegetativo a ir al baño sola por primera vez. Está convencida de que el CBD, un principio activo medicinal del cannabis, la curó y que puede revertir tumores. Se trata de una de esas experiencias al borde de la muerte que cambia la vida de una persona y se convierte en su obsesión. Hay quien atribuye la recuperación a Dios, y abraza la religión. Shuman se la atribuyó a la marihuana, y se abrazó a ella.

Al año siguiente, Shuman decidió “salir del armario” y dar toda la publicidad que pudiera a su empresa y a sí misma. Tiene una presencia constante en medios estadounidenses para promocionar el cannabis y sus beneficios medicinales, especialmente para pacientes de cáncer. “Trabajo con madres que tienen niños que se están muriendo de enfermedades y luchan por salvarlos, les animo a que pongan jardines de marihuana en sus casas”. Está convencida de que es cuestión de tiempo la legalización total. “Es el nuevo alcohol”. Sus empresas hacen consultoría, asesoría de imagen, marketing, branding, publicidad. Afirma que gestiona un fondo de inversión de 106 millones de euros para invertir en negocios de marihuana. Conseguir su legalización, y cobrar por ayudar a colocarse en un buen sitio para cuando eso suceda, es su trabajo.

La marihuana es completamente legal en Colorado, Alaska, Washington y Oregón. En California es de uso común, pero hay que hacer el paripé de buscar una receta médica para justificar su uso terapéutico. Sin embargo, es ilegal a nivel federal. Por tanto, hay base legal para cerrar cualquier negocio de marihuana, en cualquier momento. Esto se utiliza para evitar que la marihuana sea demasiado normal, especialmente cuando un negocio adquiere notoriedad mediática. “Me podrían arrestar y mandarme a la cárcel para dar ejemplo en cualquier momento”, dice Shuman. “Cuando me voy a la cama, tengo esa visión de gente entrando por la puerta con un AK47 y gritando: ¡Al suelo!”.

Cheryl Shuman cumplirá 55 años el mes que viene. Creció en una granja de tabaco en Buena Vista, Ohio, en la región de los Apalaches, uno de los condados más pobres de Estados Unidos. “Fui una niña trabajadora”, relata, “no tuve agua corriente hasta los 14 años”. Tiene dos hijas, de 34 y 27 años. La mayor trabaja con ella y la más joven, en la industria del cine.

Su objetivo en los próximos años es “ser la Martha Stewart de la marihuana y montar la mayor compañía de medios” del sector. Va a hacer una revista que se llamará Cannalebrity, una fusión de las palabras cannabis y celebrity cuya temática es evidente. “Vengo de la nada y tengo una vida de jet set. Todo lo que tengo me lo he ganado. Pero al final del día, ¿qué sentido tiene tu vida? Yo quiero ser la que haga esto realidad, quiero ser la que lo lleve a la tierra prometida. Dejar un legado, ese es mi plan”.


The queen of cannabis Beverly Hills
Cheryl Shuman manages a fund of 106 million to invest in businesses of marijuana and chairs a club with 1,700 members, including the elite of the show
PABLO XIMÉNEZ DE SANDOVAL Los Angeles 13 FEB 2015 – 19:52 CET

English Translation:

At age 24, Cheryl Shuman was out of poverty, had made ​​millions selling discount coupons in Los Angeles, was ruined again and malvivía in your car. He found work in optics Encino, north of the city, four euros an hour. “One day, the other girls were outside smoking and I was alone in the store. And then came Michael Jackson “. It was the time of Thriller , in the early eighties. It was disguised to avoid being recognized, had a hard time on the street, has Shuman.

“Then I told him that if he wanted he could serve at home”. A Jackson loved the idea of ​​not having to leave home. When he went to his mansion, Shuman was adapted glasses with precarious means. “I said, ¿I can recommend to people?”. It helped me buy a computer and sent me to George Lucas, John Landis, Quincy Jones, Paula Abdul, his sister … In 30 days I had won $ 14,000 (12,500 euros), I I had put back on its feet and told my boss that left him “.

They say Los Angeles, world capital of show business, is a city that gets your feet if you have a good story to tell. The Cheryl Shuman is the best. Businesswoman single mother ruined millionaire three times, cancer survivor and, in recent years, queen of marijuana distribution among the elite of the show. Shuman has become famous as president of Beverly Hills Cannabis Club and has a mission: “Making marijuana is as normal as drinking wine with food”.

The meeting with the country occurs at night at the legendary bar Rainbow Sunset Strip , West Sunset Boulevard area in which several generations of musicians and stars have starred in all kinds of excesses to feed his legend, some to the point of dying in the street. Shuman had said that day women who want to start marijuana-related businesses for a session of networking and give a motivational talk about their own accomplishments. “It started as a call for 15 people and there have been 40,” he said as he tried to arrange the tables.

Cheryl Shuman, a press conference to defend a marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles.
“This is a sponsorship program to help people to get into the industry,” explained Shuman. One by one, the participants presented themselves. “Hi, I’m Kim, I am an interior designer. I’m sick of dark marijuana dispensaries, I want to meet people and get into the industry. ” Another: “Hi, I’m a photographer and I’m launching the first site specializing in marijuana photography and video”. A third said he was a doctor and that marijuana does not really care much: “I’m here to make money.” A businesswoman friend of hers, taught its latest product, candy for dogs with marijuana. “It’s for nervous dogs,” he says.

Shuman finds time to continue with the story that brought you here. In the mid-nineties, which began with glasses for Michael Jackson was a company valued at EUR 20 million called Starry Eyes. Shuman not only made ​​sunglasses for stars like George Clooney or Tom Cruise, but provided to producers, directors and art directors for movies. Before, they had to buy glasses to package and test. She began bringing home samplers. “I did all movies glasses from Terminator 2 to Mission Impossible “. Hence, their contacts with the stars.

His approach to marijuana arrives in 1996 after a stormy relationship. Bordering a depressive state, psychologist one day told him that a joint is made. “I thought it was on a hidden camera”. The medical use of marijuana in California was passed that year. Shuman mounted a marijuana farm in upstate and began to sell to your list of professional contacts, stars, and the method that I knew worked, at home. “I had worked with Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Justin Timberlake, Paul McCartney . To all those people love marijuana. “

Today the Cannabis Club Beverly Hills comprise 1,700 members, of which “a hundred” are the true elite of the show, producers and most important directors. In the club you can buy at home “the best cannabis in the world, all natural and organic”, at 620 euros per ounce (28.3 grams).

In 2006, he was diagnosed with cancer that left her bedridden in hospital. He began to be treated with cannabis through a friend. He claims that in 60 days went from being virtually vegetative state to go to the bathroom alone for the first time. He is convinced that the CBD, a medicinal active principle of cannabis, cured and can revert tumors. This is one of those experiences on the verge of death that changes the life of a person and becomes his obsession. Some attribute the recovery to God and embraces religion. Shuman was attributed to marijuana, and hugged her.

The following year, Shuman decided to “come out” and give all the publicity could your company and yourself. Is a constant presence in US media to promote cannabis and its medicinal benefits, especially for cancer patients. “Working with mothers who have children who are dying of diseases and fight to save them, encourage them to put marijuana gardens in their homes.” He is convinced that a matter of time full legalization. “It’s the new spirit”. Their companies do consulting, image consulting, marketing , branding, advertising. He claims that manages an investment fund of 106 million euros to invest in businesses of marijuana. Get legalization, and charge for helping put in a good spot for when that happens, it’s your job.

Marijuana is completely legal in Colorado, Alaska, Washington and Oregon . In California it is commonly used, but it must be Paripe find a prescription to justify their therapeutic use. However, it is illegal at the federal level. Therefore, no legal basis to close any marijuana business at any time. This is used to prevent marijuana is too normal, especially when a business acquires media notoriety. “I could be arrested and put me in prison for an example at any time,” says Shuman. “When I go to bed, I have this vision of people coming through the door with an AK47 and shouting down!”.

Cheryl Shuman be 55 years old next month. He grew up on a farm snuff in Buena Vista, Ohio, in the Appalachian region, one of the poorest counties in the United States. “I was a working girl,” he says, “I had no running water to 14 years.” He has two daughters, 34 and 27 years. Most working with her and the youngest in the film industry.

Your goal in the coming years is “to be the Martha Stewart of marijuana and mount the largest media company “sector. You will make a magazine called Cannalebrity, a fusion of cannabis words and celebrity whose theme is evident. “I come from nowhere and have a life of jet set. All I have I would’ve won. But at the end of the day, what sense does your life? I want to be the one to make this happen, I would be the one to take you to the promised land. Leave a legacy, that’s my plan. “

W Radio Columbia Interviews the Cannabis Queen of Beverly Hills

W Radio Colombia ‏@WRadioColombia Mar 27
#AlAire Cheryl Shuman, directora del Club del Cannabis en Beverly Hills

Native American Marijuana Trade Organization Launches

National Indian Cannabis Coalition Launches at National RES 2015

Washington, DC – Today, the National Indian Cannabis Coalition (NICC) officially launched at RES 2015, the National Indian Economic Development Trade Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. NICC, the first national coalition created to assist federally recognized Tribes in the legal, regulated cannabis industry, will be co-chaired by Jeff Doctor, former Democratic Congressional nominee and member of the Seneca Tribe, and Allyson Doctor, health care leadership and communications executive and member of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe. Patrick Murphy, former Nevada State Legislator, will serve as a founding member of the NICC Board of Advisors.

Following a 2014 Department of Justice memorandum that opened discussions to tribal regulation of marijuana, there has been a spike in interest in cannabis cultivation in Indian Country. In this quickly emerging market, NICC will serve as a clearinghouse for Tribal leaders for accurate information on the multi-layer process of financing, designing and constructing effective cannabis cultivation and manufacturing enterprises.

“The cannabis industry has the complexity of high-tech agriculture and the regulatory pressure and profitability of the gaming industry”, said Co-Chairs Jeff and Allyson Doctor. “Through NICC, we hope to bring our collective experience in the cannabis and health care industries to benefit Indian Country in evaluating smart business opportunities in Nevada and across the country. We want to see our tribes succeed; NICC will provide the education and resources necessary to ensure that they do.”

The mission of the National Indian Cannabis Coalition is to educate Tribal leaders on the emerging regulated cannabis market from an operations perspective. NICC will serve as a clearinghouse for information on the medical benefits of cannabis; economic development opportunities of building a self-sustaining cultivation project from seed to sale; and investing with consideration for public health and safety for the benefit of the community.

Advantages of Doing Business With Native Indian Tribes



Business Advantages of Native American Tribes:

Not subject to:

• Federal, State & Local Income Tax

• State & Local Excise Tax

• Property Tax

• Sales Tax Purchasing Products

• State Labor Laws

• State Environmental Laws

• State & Local Permit Requirements.

Eligible for:
• Tax Increment Financing

• New Market Tax Credits

• Tax Exempt Bond Financing

• Accelerated Depreciation

• Employment Tax Credits

• Gov’t Contracts (Buy Indian Act, Hub Zone, etc.)

• Discounted Leasing Rates

• Custom Duty Deferral, Reduction or Elimination

Note: Other rules, regulations and laws may apply to specific Tribes and businesses due to Treaties, compacts, etc