The Justice Department announced on Thursday that they have plans to tell U.S. attorneys to not inhibit native tribes from growing or selling marijuana on tribal lands, even in states that do not have legal medical or recreational marijuana. This could mean the start of a profitable and controversial new industry for some Native American reservations.
The announcement, which came in the form of a memorandum, will be put into place on a case-by-case basis and tribes are still required to follow federal guidelines, according to the U.S. attorney for North Dakota and also the Chairman of the Attorney General’s Subcommittee on Native American Issues, Timothy Purdon.
Staunch opponent of marijuana legalization and former advisor on drug issues to President Obama, Kevin A. Sabet said the announcement sends a message that we don’t really care about federal drug laws.
It has yet to be seen how many reservations will actually take advantage of the new policy. A lot of tribes are in opposition to legal pot on their sacred lands and will continue to rely on federal officials to enforce laws in those areas.
A similar policy in 2013 by the Justice Department stopped most federal marijuana prosecutions in those states that have voted to pass the legal use and sale of cannabis.
There are tribes who will seize the opportunity to use marijuana has a source of income for the tribe, similar to that of cigarette sales and casinos. There are other tribes though, like the Yakama Reservation in Washington State, who are very against the sale or use of marijuana on their tribal lands.
In an interview recently, Purdon said for a lot of Native American tribes, marijuana is similar to the painful history of alcohol abuse and for that reason will not allow it.
The federal government will support tribes that choose to ban marijuana, even in states where recreational or medical marijuana is legal. They will stay out of the way of the federally recognized tribes that choose to allow marijuana use, just as long as those tribes meet eight federal guidelines, which include that marijuana is not sold to minors and it cannot be taken to areas where it is prohibited.
It is likely there will be heavy criticism of the policy, especially in states opposed to marijuana sales, with a large number of Native American reserv
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