As Tribe Prepares To Legalize Marijuana, Questions Remain

SOUTH DAKOTA:  Five months from now, according to the plan, Indians and non-Indians alike will be smoking marijuana on tribal lands in Flandreau.

The U.S. Justice Department told Indian tribes last December that they can grow and sell marijuana as long as they follow the same federal conditions laid out for Washington, Colorado and other states that have legalized the drug.

For the tribe and Colorado-based Monarch America, hired to design, construct and develop a grow facility on the Flandreau reservation, that has opened the door to a potentially rich new business enterprise — just as the advent of casino gambling did decades ago.

They intend to open by the first week of December, says Monarch America CEO Eric Hagen, who adds, with a smile, “Everyone will have a merry Christmas.”

Tribal Marijuana Pitfalls: Shysters, Smugglers & States

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.



Pomos Seeking To Establish State’s First Tribal Pot Operation

CALIFORNIA:  A Ukiah Indian rancheria is in the running to possibly become the site of California’s first tribe-sanctioned marijuana cultivation and distribution operation.

The Pinoleville Pomo Nation is among several tribes engaged in negotiations over a future marijuana-growing operation with Colorado-based United Cannabis Corporation and Kansas-based FoxBarry Farms, LLC, according to the corporations and federal filings.

The two corporations recently entered an agreement under which FoxBarry, which also manages tribal casinos, will distribute United Cannabis branded pot products in California, according to a news release posted on the United Cannabis website and a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

The proposed partnerships follow a U.S. Department of Justice announcement last month that tribes — which are sovereign nations — have the authority to legalize marijuana on their lands.


Yakama Nation Says It Is Not Open To Legalized Marijuana

WASHINGTON: Leaders of Central Washington’s Yakama Nation say they won’t recognize the state’s legalized recreational marijuana law.

Marijuana remains illegal on the 1.2 million-acre reservation, said the tribe’s attorney George Colby, who added that Washington residents lack the authority to legalize recreational pot use on tribal lands. [Read more…]