Justice Department Memo Provides Guidance For Marijuana Regulation On Tribal Lands

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Justice Department Memo Provides Guidance For Marijuana Regulation On Tribal Lands

Washington, DC: Federal officials appear open to the notion of allowing Native American leaders to engage in activities involving the regulated production and sale of cannabis on tribal lands.

A newly released Justice Department memo informs all United States Attorneys that their marijuana enforcement efforts on Native American tribal lands should be guided by a 2013 DOJ memorandum previously urging prosecutors not to interfere with state-sanctioned cannabis regulatory schemes, provided that such activities do not violate specific federal priorities such as marijuana sales to minors or the plant's diversion to states that have not legalized its use.

The most recent memorandum, dated in late October by Director Monty Wilkinson but only made public last week, states, "The eight priorities in the Cole memorandum will guide United States Attorneys' marijuana enforcement efforts in Indian Country, including in the event that sovereign Indian Nations seek to legalize the cultivation or use of marijuana in Indian Country."

According to reporting by The Washington Post, "The policy [is] not a result of any particular demand for legalization on reservations. ... [T]he guidelines are a response to an inquiry from tribal governments wanting to know whether the Department of Justice would back tribal pot bans in states where recreational use is legal."

According to the Post, three Native American tribes - one in California, one in Washington, and one in the Midwest - have expressed interest in legalized marijuana production. There are 326 federally recognized Native American reservations in the United States.

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, or Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director, at: (202) 483-5500.