Different tribes have had very different plans following the United States government proclamation that sovereign tribal lands could implement their own cannabis policies, just as individual states are free to do so, in accordance with the Obama Justice Department’s Cole Memo. Some tribes have stated no intention to change anything while others have put into motion plans to regulate the production and dispensing of marijuana.
In December 2014, the federal government announced that when it comes to marijuana, it would not essentially treat Native American Tribes as it treats states. Since that announcement, a number of tribes have indicated an interest in tribal marijuana. My law firm just last week put on the first national Tribal Marijuana Conference, attended by more than 400 people, from more than 75 tribes and more than 35 states.
Clearly, marijuana on tribal lands is going to be a big deal.
The Department of Justice has stated it will not focus its resources on prosecuting growing or selling marijuana on tribal lands, even when state law prohibits it. This holds true for both medical and recreational cannabis, though the DOJ will enforce federal marijuana laws on tribal lands if the tribe requests that it do so. According to the DOJ’s tribal marijuana memo, the eight enforcement priorities previously outlined in the DOJ’s August 2013 Cole memo will guide federal enforcement of marijuana laws on tribal lands. It is important to note that none of this changes federal drug laws or the federal government’s ability to enforce those laws. Therefore, any tribe considering setting up a legalized marijuana regime should enact and enforce “robust regulations” so as to comply with the Cole and tribal marijuana memos and to increase its odds of avoiding unwanted federal intervention.
As KOMOnews.com reports, a Northwest tribe has entered into a landmark agreement with a state regulatory agency that will establish the rules regarding cannabis commerce on tribal lands:
The Suquamish Tribe and Washington State Liquor Cannabis Board have signed what they say is the nation’s first state-tribal marijuana compact.
Board officials said in a news release the 10-year agreement signed Monday will govern the production, processing and sale of pot on the Tribe’s land located in Kitsap County.
The state negotiated the agreement in lieu of Board licensure. Under the compact, a tribal tax equivalent to the state excise tax will be applied to sales to non-tribal customers on Suquamish tribal lands.
Unbiased examination of legalization policies clearly shows that cannabis commerce creates jobs and generates new revenue without the sky falling and society collapsing. It only makes sense that every government that would like more revenue and less unemployment will see cannabis legalization as a common sense policy. It won’t be surprising to see more and more tribal governments legalize, regulate and tax marijuana, no different than the growing cadre of states that will be following in the footsteps of Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska in replacing prohibition with sensible regulations.