Tribes urged to proceed with caution in new marijuana industry


A cannabis plant. Photo from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via Wikipedia

Tribes should get written assurances from authorities before cultivating marijuana, an Indian law attorney said.

The Department of Justice opened the door to legal marijuana in Indian Country with the 2014 Wilkinson memo. But attorney Lael Echo Hawk said not everyone in the federal government agrees with the new policy.

“Tribes interested need to get some written assurance from their district attorney because possessing a Schedule I controlled substance carries serious penalties and is not something to be taken lightly," Echo Hawk told The Washington Post.

The Pinoleville Pomo Nation of California is already facing that issue. Medicinal marijuana is legal in the state but authorities in Mendocino County plan to enforce a local law, known as 9.31, that prevents more than 25 plants from being grown on a particular parcel.

The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe of South Dakota plans to sell marijuana by the end of the year. But non-Indians who go to the reservation face prosecution if they use the drug, Attorney General Marty Jackley has warned.

“If tribes don’t do this right, their situation could get a lot worse,” said Robert Williams, the director of the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program at the University of Arizona told the Post. “The stakes are high and the consequences could be disastrous.”

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The feds suggest they won’t interfere, but Indian tribes are still wary of marijuana farming (News21 / The Washington Post 7/8)

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