Washington was the first state to develop a framework to deal with marijuana sales in Indian Country. Nevada followed with its own compacting process last year. Tribe elsewhere have seen their marijuana and hemp operations raided by state and federal authorities. Threats of raids alone have prompted some tribes to avoid getting involved in the industry. Even though marijuana is allowed in several states, it remains illegal under federal law and, by extension, in Indian Country. But the Obama administration, in an October 2014 policy statement, appeared to recognize the authority for tribes to legalize and regulate the product. The policy was seen as an extension of a document known as the Cole Memo, in which the Department of Justice explained how it would, or would not, in certain situations, enforce federal law in states where marijuana had been legalized. On January 4, the Trump administration rescinded the Obama-era guidance. That essentially means the Indian Country policy no longer exists. "It is the mission of the Department of Justice to enforce the laws of the United States, and the previous issuance of guidance undermines the rule of law and the ability of our local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement partners to carry out this mission," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at the time.
The decision does not appear to have had much of an effect on tribal operations in Washington. Leaders of the Suquamish Tribe, who were the first to to enter into a marijuana compact, have said they will continue to work closely with the state in order to protect the integrity of their government-to-government agreement. “State and tribal laws were created and crafted in response to the challenges marijuana presented to our communities,” Chairman Leonard Forsman said in January after Sessions rescinded the memo. "We agree with Governor Inslee that the Washington state system addresses these problems in a manner that is well regulated, keeps out criminals, protects it from falling into the hands of children, cracks down on driving under the influence, and carefully tracks production to prevent cross-border transfer.” “This is not only about the marijuana industry, it is about sovereignty, voters rights and access to safe marijuana that since becoming legal has resulted in the creation of good paying jobs and much-needed tribal tax revenue that allows us to buy our lands back and invest in community development,” added Treasurer Robin Sigo.
In neighboring Oregon, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs are hoping to enter the industry by growing marijuana and selling it to dispensaries. Plans remain in limbo amid economic turmoil and political change on the reservation, The Los Angeles Times reported. "We're already behind on a lot of things. We can't let this pass us by," Carina Miller, a council member who supports growing marijuana, told the paper. Read More on the Story:
S’Klallam pot shop to open Saturday (The Kitsap Sun March 5, 2018)
'We can’t let this pass us by': Here's how a Native American tribe in Oregon sees hope with marijuana (The Los Angeles Times March 6, 2016)
S'Klallam Tribe moves closer to marijuana sales (The Kitsap Sun January 3, 2018) Department of Justice Document:
Policy Statement Regarding Marijuana Issues in Indian Country (October 2014)