The Department of Justice said yesterday that Indian tribes can grow and sell marijuana on their tribal lands as long as they meet the proper state conditions. The DOJ’s announcement responded to questions from Indian tribes located in states with legalized marijuana sales.
There hasn’t been much interest from the tribes — only three have inquired about growing and selling marijuana. Oregon U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall, who made the announcement, did not name which tribes were interested.
“That’s been the primary message tribes are getting to us as U.S. attorneys,” Marshall said from Portland. “What will the U.S. as federal partners do to assist tribes in protecting our children and families, our tribal businesses, our tribal housing? How will you help us combat marijuana abuse in Indian County when states are no longer there to partner with us?”
But Marshall warned the tribes that marijuana is still illegal under federal law.
Some see the green light for marijuana sales with an economic upside. “Seattle attorney Anthony Broadman, whose firm represents tribal governments throughout the West, said the announcement represents a ‘potential for an enormous economic development tool here.'”
However the attending social issues are worth considering. “Indian tribes have been decimated by drug use,” Broadman said. “Tribal regulations of pot are going to have to dovetail with tribal values, making sure marijuana isn’t a scourge like alcohol or tobacco.”
One upside is that Indian tribes are not always subject to state and local taxes, allowing them to undercut their competition.
The DOJ memo instructs the tribes, “U.S. attorneys reserve the right to prosecute for eight issues: Sales to kids, marijuana proceeds going to criminal enterprises, shipping marijuana to states where it is illegal, illegal sales, firearms and violence, drugged driving and other public health issues, growing marijuana on public lands and possession of marijuana on federal property.”