Hilary Bricken: DOJ sending mixed signals on tribal marijuana

Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe President Anthony Reider. Photo from Facebook

Cannabis attorney Hilary Bricken urges tribes to work closely with federal, state and local officials as they enter the marijuana and hemp industries:
First, there was the Pit River raid in July of this year. In that case, federal government authorities, including the DEA and special agents with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), raided cannabis cultivation operations on the Alturas Indian Rancheria and the XL Ranch in Modoc County, California. According to the U.S. Attorney press-release, “[t]he search warrants are part of an ongoing investigation relating to the financing and management of the commercial marijuana-cultivation projects.” In a U.S. Attorney affidavit, we can see what went into the raid itself.

So, why the raid? California’s existing cannabis regulations are not “robust” and therefore do not meet the standards of the Cole Memo, and the DOJ probably believed these Tribal cannabis operations were simply “too big” to ignore. Most importantly, it appears that the Tribe never received the required U.S. Attorney approval for its operations. There also appears to have been questionable non-Native American financiers involved with the Tribal grows, which is probably yet another reason why the DOJ believed it could not just sit back. Lastly, proposed traceability and accountability of the Tribe’s plants and products also did not appear to meet DOJ enforcement priorities for a such a large grow.

Second, there was in late October of this year a federal government raid of a grow belonging to the Menominee Tribe in Wisconsin, involving the seizure of around 30,000 cannabis plants. This grow was allegedly made up of only industrial hemp and not marijuana plants capable of producing active THC. Menominee Tribal leaders maintain that “. . . the plants were intended for lawful research into growing industrial hemp, which is processed and utilized for fiber, food and oil and is distinguishable from marijuana by its lower levels of the high-inducing compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).” Though federal law prohibits cultivating hemp without a DEA permit, the Menominee were cultivating their hemp in cooperation with the College of the Menominee Nation, in accordance with the federal Farm Bill of 2014.

Get the Story:
Hilary Bricken: Mixed Smoke Signals For Tribal Marijuana From DOJ (Above The Law 11/16)

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

Join the Conversation

Related Stories
Squaxin Island Tribe set for grand opening of marijuana store (11/12)
Squaxin Island Tribe to open marijuana store on November 12 (11/10)
Omaha Tribe to continue with studies of marijuana and hemp (11/10)
Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe feared raid of marijuana resort (11/10)
Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe puts hold on marijuana resort (11/09)
Omaha Tribe considers next steps for marijuana operation (11/05)
Onondaga Nation isn't interested in marijuana movement (11/05)
Kim Patterson: Tribe makes bad call with marijuana resort (11/04)
Seneca Nation to move forward with medical marijuana plan (11/04)
Omaha Tribe voters back marijuana in advisory referendum (11/04)
Omaha Tribe holds advisory referendum on legalizing marijuana (11/02)
Eastern Cherokees to conduct feasibility study on marijuana (10/29)
BIA looked for hemp while Menominee Nation chair was at NCAI (10/27)
Menominee Nation slams DEA raid of industrial hemp operation (10/26)
Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe eyes revenues from marijuana (10/21)
Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe shows marijuana facility to lawmakers (10/16)
Interview with Anthony Rivera on creation of marijuana firm (10/15)
Former chair of Crow Tribe launches cannabis development firm (10/12)
Julian Brave NoiseCat: Trading tribal sovereignty for marijuana (10/09)
Colville Tribes pass resolution for small amounts of marijuana (10/06)
Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe expects big crowd for pot kickoff (10/06)
Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe fully booked for launch of pot resort (10/05)
Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe reports strong interest in pot resort (10/01)
Colville Tribes weigh amendment for small amounts of marijuana (09/30)
Dennis Chappabitty: Tribes should be able to set marijuana laws (09/29)
Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe prepares for first marijuana resort (09/29)
Ho-Chunk Nation goes slowly when it comes to legal marijuana (09/24)
Pinoleville Pomo Nation sees setback at marijuana operation (09/23)
Hilary Bricken: Suquamish Tribe enters landmark marijuana deal (09/22)