In-Depth: Rep. Don Young (R-AK), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, reintroduced this bill from the 114th Congress to ensure self-determination for Indian tribes to decide how to best govern themselves in regard to marijuana.
In 2016, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), who sponsored this bill in the 114th Congress, said:
“I strongly believe states should be allowed to enact their own marijuana laws, and have consistently supported attempts to ensure federal laws do not interfere with them. I’m also an ardent supporter of tribal sovereignty, which is why I introduced this bill forbidding the federal government from considering marijuana production, possession, or sale as an adverse factor when disbursing federal funds."
The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) — an American Indian and Alaska Native indigenous rights organization that lobbies the federal government on behalf of natives’ rights — argues that tribes are sovereign governments with the inherent authority to set their own policies regarding marijuana use:
“Indian tribes are sovereign governments with the inherent right to set local laws addressing marijuana, including its medical and industrial uses, according to the public health and economic needs of their unique communities.”
This bill doesn’t have any cosponsors. In the 114th Congress, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) introduced this bill with the support of four bipartisan cosponsors, including three Democrats and one Republican, but it didn’t receive a committee vote. Rep. Young was a cosponsor of Rep. Pocan’s bill in the 114th Congress.
Of Note: Many people in the tribal business community view marijuana as a potential cash crop that’d generate revenue for a population that’s generally impoverished. Duke Rodriguez, a former Secretary of Health Services in New Mexico who founded a company specializing in operating dispensaries and helping with cannabis cultivation for medical use, is convinced the legal cannabis could improve both the physical and economic health of American Indians on tribal land.
Under the Wilkinson Memorandum, a 2014 policy statement, the Dept. of Justice’s current position recommends non-enforcement of the federal prohibition of marijuana-related activities to U.S. Attorneys serving tribes that have legalized those activities under tribal law. However, NCAI contends that the application of this policy has been inconsistent due to “confusion over federal public lands vs. federal Indian lands” and lack of “adequate government-to-government consultation,” creating a lack of clear guidance for tribes and law enforcement on marijuana.
Summary by Lorelei Yang
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / OpenRangeStock)