Published March 4, 2017
Tribal entities must be careful in choosing partners in the emerging legal cannabis industry
WASHINGTON – The National Indian Cannabis Coalition (NICC), the only tribal advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring tribal entities have the opportunity to participate in the regulated cannabis and hemp markets, expressed concern with the circumstances surrounding the High Times Cannabis Cup. The event, scheduled to happen this weekend on Moapa Paiute tribal lands located outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, was the subject of a February 16 letter from U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden.
In his letter, Bogden stated that he was “informed that the tribal council is moving forward with the planned marijuana event… because it is under the impression that the so-called ‘Cole Memorandum’ and subsequent memoranda from the Department of Justice permit marijuana use, possession and distribution on tribal lands when the state law also permits it. Unfortunately, this is an incorrect interpretation of the Department’s position on this issue.”
“We believe the memos from the Department of Justice clearly allow tribes the right to leverage their tribal sovereignty to pursue economic development with legal cannabis,” said Jeff Doctor, Executive Director of the NICC. “But those memos are not carte blanche for anyone to just dive into this industry without the proper steps. And while we salute the efforts of the Moapa Paiute Tribal Citizens, I’m not certain I can say the same for Cannabis Cup event partner Ultra Health and their leader Duke Rodriguez. There are those in the industry who will attempt to hide behind tribal sovereignty for financial gain—at the expense of the tribal partner.”
“It’s all about economic development, job creation, and tribal sovereignty,” said Doctor. “Look at Washington State. After the state legalized recreational marijuana, the tribes worked collaboratively with the Washington state legislature and Governor to create a legal and regulatory scheme that allows both tribal and state participants to move in and out of the state’s regulated system.”
Both industry operators and tribes must show diligence in evaluating potential endeavors, said Doctor. “Indian Country can be setting a great standard for the cannabis industry as it moves toward legalization,” he said, “Just as it has done in gaming.” The National Indian Cannabis Coalition believes that increased economic opportunity can only be achieved when all parties are working together.
“A partnership with a tribal entity can be a real benefit for industry,” said Doctor, “but it has never been more important to enter these agreements with extreme care.”
The ultimate outcome of this weekend’s Cannabis Cup remains unclear. “Event promoters are saying the event will continue just as planned. We are hopeful that this means the tribe, the United States and the tribe’s partner have reached an agreement that continues to open doors for Indian Country.
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