DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Since the Department of Justice’s unexpected policy announcement in December regarding marijuana in Indian Country, many tribes are carefully considering the unintended consequences of addressing their approach to marijuana. At the same time, tribes are entering into relationships or accepting advice from shysters who may be leading them down the garden path.
At a recent conference in Santa Fe, one “consultant” (whose professional profile describes him as an “infection preventionist” at a regional medical center) advised that tribes “are able to get into this industry with complete immunity,” according to an article in the Daily Beast. Nothing could be further from the truth. Regardless of marijuana’s legal status in a given state, marijuana remains illegal under federal law, although enforcement priorities will be directed toward the activities outlined in the “Cole Memorandum,” which include keeping marijuana away from minors and out of jurisdictions where it’s not legal; preventing driving while high (on anything); and ensuring that marijuana cultivation and sales doesn’t enrich gangs or cartels, endanger public safety or engender violent crime.
This approach may work fine for states, and even for cities, but seems unimaginably complex for tribes already struggling with law enforcement issues such as recruitment and retention or patrolling large areas. Tribes should take note that the DEA has shown no hesitation in conducting raids and arrests on individual operations and businesses that violate the Cole Memorandum, even in states with broad legalization laws.