Opinion

Column: New Mexico should strike marijuana deals with tribes






A dispensary in Denver, Colorado. Photo from O'Dea / Wikipedia

Writer believes legal marijuana could be a cash for tribes and the state of New Mexico:
Arizona legislators will weigh a legalization bill in the session opening this month, although it's unlikely to make it to a floor vote this year. More significant locally is the policy guidance issued by the Department of Justice last month, making it clear the feds will treat legalization on Indian reservations as it has with the states: as long as the business is effectively regulated, Washington won't interfere.

While some out in Window Rock have floated an idea to grow medical marijuana on Navajo lands – certainly a more profitable cash crop than alfalfa for NIIP – none of New Mexico's 23 pueblos and tribes has yet publicly indicated any interest in expanding their smoke shops. But it's surely occurred to some canny Native American entrepreneurs that early birds could clean up harvesting worms. The casino business is highly competitive, and in pursuit of customers the tribes have managed to overcome their far more serious scruples regarding alcohol.

Unless the state negotiates a deal similar to the gaming compacts, New Mexico could lose out on a cut of the tribal pot handle.

Legalization has been an economic boon to Colorado. Through the first 10 months of last year, recreational marijuana sales totaled nearly $250 million and medical sales added another $247 million. Taxes, licensing and various fees funneled $60 million of that into government coffers.

Tourism officials are reticent about the impact of legal pot on their industry, but it certainly hasn't hurt business. Pot retailers in resort towns report about 5 percent of their sales are to out-of-state customers.

Get the Story:
Bob Hagan: As state after state legalizes marijuana, will New Mexico join in? (The Carlsbad Current ARgus 1/13)

Relevant Documents:
Policy Statement Regarding Marijuana Issues in Indian Country (October 2014)

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Opinion: DOJ marijuana policy in Indian Country raises questions (12/16) DOJ announces new policy affecting marijuana in Indian Country (12/11)