The State of California has legalized marijuana for medical and recreational uses. The federal government recognizes American Indian tribes as sovereign nations and their reservations as sovereign land, and the U.S. Justice Department issued a policy of non-enforcement of the federal Controlled Substance Act (CSA) on all tribal lands.
In 1996 California became the first state to legalize the medical use of marijuana. In the 2016 election voter passed Proposition 64, "Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA)", legalizing recreational marijuana effective January 1, 2018.
California's main regulatory agencies are the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC), Department of Food and Agriculture, Department of Public Health and Cannabis Regulatory Authority (CRA). Major government resources include the following:
California Cannabis Portal
California Bureau of Cannabis Control
P.O. Box 138200
Sacramento, CA 95813-8200
California Food & Agriculture Department
3180 Cridge St, Riverside, CA 92507
Phone: (916) 654-0466
California Department of Public Health
California has 105 American Indian tribes recognized by the federal government, the most of any state in the nation. These tribes have U.S. Justice Department approval to regulate, grow and sell marijuana on their reservations.
The tribes are Alturas, Augustine, Bear River, Benton, Berry Creek, Big Lagoon, Big Pine, Big Sandy, Big Valley Rancheria, Bishop Paiute, Blue Lake, Bridgeport Indian Colony, Buena Vista Rancheria, Cabazon, Cachil DeHe, Cahto, Cahuilla, California Valley, Campo, Capitan Grande, Cedarville, Chemehuevi, Cher-Ae Heights, Chicken Ranch, Cloverdale, Cold Springs, Cortina, Coyote Valley, Dry Creek, Elem, Elk Valley, Enterprise, Ewiiaapaayp, Federated Indians of Graton, Fort Bidwell, Fort Independence, Fort Mojave, Greenville, Grindstone, Guidiville, Habematolel, Hoopa, Hopland, Iipay, Inaja, Ione, Jackson, Jamul, Karuk, Kashia, Koi, La Jolla, La Posta, Lone Pine, Los Coyotes, Lytton, Manchester, Manzanita, Mechoopda, Mesa Grande, Middletown, Mooretown, Morongo, Northfork, Pala, Paskenta, Pauma, Pechanga, Picayune, Pinoleville, Pit River, Potter Valley, Quartz Valley, Ramona, Redding, Redwood Valley, Resighini, Rincon, Robinson, Round Valley, San Manuel, San Pasqual, Santa Rosa of Chuilla, Santa Rosa, Santa Ynez, Scotts Valley, Sherwood Valley, Shingle Springs, Soboba, Susanville, Sycuan, Table Mountain, Tejon, Timbi-sha Shoshone, Tolowa Dee-Ni', Torres Martinez, Tule River, Tuolumne, Twenty-Nine Palms, United Auburn, Viejas, Wilton, Wiyot, Yocha Dehe, Yurok
For a complete list of California tribes and their locations, see our page about California Tribes.
March 25, 2019
California tribes are shut out of the largest cannabis market in the country due to a licensing restriction imposed by the California Bureau of Cannabis Control.
The Bureau will not allow tribes to conduct off-reservation business without a license. Since legalization in January 2018, California tribes have sought commercial licenses, but no tribe has been licensed.
As a condition for licensing, the Bureau wants full regulatory control of all cannabis operations on reservation lands, which is a violation of tribal sovereignty rights. Without a state license, tribes have the full right to conduct cannabis operations on their own lands with self-regulation.
In the November 2016 election California voters approved the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (Proposition 64) allowing adults 21 years of age or older to legally possess and use recreational marijuana. It lets local governments decide if the state should issue licenses in their local jurisdiction. There is no provision for licensing tribes for off-reservation business.
As a result California tribes have been effectively shut out of the general marketplace because their business is restricted to their reservations.
One tribe, the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel, recently opened a dispensary on their reservation in San Diego County. The dispensary occupies a vacant casino that closed in 2014. The tribe also rents reservation land to tenants that grow marijuana and operate a processing lab.
The Iipay Nation only sell to customers at their reservation and to other tribes. Their sales have been strong and their success is an example for other tribes to open similar businesses.
Unlike the Iipay Nation many of the other local tribes in San Diego County operate casinos. Growing or selling cannabis on those land will certainly create new issues and concerns.
February 19, 2019
Earlier this month the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel opened a marijuana dispensary on their reservation in East San Diego County off State Route 79. The dispensary, named Mountain Source, sells cannabis flower and marijuana-infused edibles.
The dispensary is part of the Santa Ysabel Botanical Facility located on the property of the former Santa Ysabel Casino. The casino failed and shut down in 2014. The Santa Ysabel Botanical Facility has nearly 100 employees, which is almost as many as their casino once had.
The dispensary is located in the front part of the former casino building. The back of the building is being retrofitted as a marijuana test facility. There will also be a bakery in the back for producing marijuana edible products.
Outside there are two acres of marijuana greenhouses with more under construction. There is also additional acreage set aside and leased to outside farmers to raise cannabis crops.
Tribes can legally grow and sell marijuana on their reservation. However, the California cannabis regulation effective in January 2019 has restricted all California tribes from a state license to sell cannabis products off-reservation.
There are two restrictions against California tribes:
Mountain Source Dispensary
25575 Highway 79
Santa Ysabel, California 92070
Hours of operation: 9AM - 6PM Daily
Santa Ysabel Botanical Facility
25575 Highway 79
Santa Ysabel, California 92070
Santa Ysabel Tribal Cannabis Regulatory Agency
25575 Highway 79
Santa Ysabel, California 92070
The Smoke Shop
25575 Highway 79
Santa Ysabel CA 92070
Hours of operation: 7:30AM - 6:30PM Daily
June 19, 2018
On Tuesday a unanimous vote was made by the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors that will prevent the opening of any new cannabis farms or businesses in ancestral territory land. This vote extends the previous decision by an additional ten months.
The original ban was put in place for 45 days. This was done by request from the tribe. The concern is over the potential damage to their cultural resources and environment that could happen due to the growing of the crop.
On Tuesday John Ford, the County Planning and Building Director, stated that the conversations with the tribe and county officials will continue under the new moratorium. The discussions will be based mostly on where the tribe might permit cannabis business locations within their ancestral territory.
The reservation owned by the Yurok Tribe is nearly 5,700 acres. Information for the approximate size of the ancestral territory has not been released.
The additional time that has been given was appreciated by the tribe.
During the same meeting an approval was given to submit a letter to state lawmakers in support of creating banks that serve the cannabis industry.
As of now operators of cannabis businesses have very limited options for banking services. The proposed bill, SB 930 would grant approval that would create options at charter banks for these businesses. The bill was authored by authored by Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys).
Under the proposed bill, a check would be issued to the businesses from the authorized banks in order to pay business taxes, rent payments, California vendor payments, as well as state and local bond purchases.
On June 7 the vote was approved by the Senate.Back
May 23, 2018
Almost two months ago, California started allowing recreational marijuana to be sold in a state regulated system. However, many Native American tribes in the state feel that the system has not worked with what they would like to do. Plans are being made that would allow the tribes to develop a cannabis industry that they regulate themselves. Not the state.
It is possible that California's tribes may grow cannabis on farms and build stores on their reservations.
The problem that the tribes have with the state licensing requirements is that if the tribes agree to abide by them, the state would be able to take away their right to be self governed on their own land.
Last year when the new state regulations were issued, all licensing and control of cannabis would be governed by California. If any California tribe decided to apply for the license, the state would then be able to enforce rules and regulations. Not the tribal government. There would not be tribal sovereignty.
The California Native American Cannabis Association was formed to advocate for tribes wishing to develop their own cannabis industry on their land. The association warned the state that tribes might use their own sovereign rights and may developed their own commercial cannabis businesses.
There are over 100 Native American tribes in California that have federal recognition. A portion of these tribes are located in rural areas that would be interested in the cannabis industry as a way to raise revenues to improve schools and infrastructure.Back
February 27, 2018
In California there are over 100 Native American tribes that are recognized by the federal government. Many of them are interested in partaking in the newly legalized marijuana industry.
In 2016 Prop 64 was approved by state voters.
Under this law, anyone that farms or manufactures cannabis for public sell must be licensed by the state. Anyone that holds these licenses they are subject to pay the state large taxes and are also heavily regulated.
However, many tribes feel that this interferes with their sovereignty if they are also required to obtain the licenses. They have their own governments and they believe that their governments should be able to decide what regulations should be implemented on their own land.
Instead of determining their own sets of laws for cannabis, they would have to abide by the state laws. They would have to submit to the enforcement of California's laws.
A letter was sent California Native American Cannabis Association last December. In that letter they stated that the tribes would look into ways of developing commercial cannabis industries through their own sovereign nations.
An agreement between the tribes was attempted before January on how the tribes would conduct their regulations. However, it was not successful.
The issue becomes if the tribes grow and process marijuana on their lands, then under the California law the tribes would not be able to sell their products off of their land. Under the current California law the tribes would need a license.
Now tribes are actively working towards forming compacts with the state that would allow them to sell their products in state legal markets.
They would also have their authority recognized that they can regulate their own businesses that are conducted on their own lands.
In Washington a compact was agreed upon between seven of the tribes and state that was similar. Currently there are even more tribes in negotiations with the state of Washington.
A similar compact is being negotiated by California. However, it is possible that it may not be until the end of this year before an agreement is made.Back
February 14, 2018
Recreational marijuana has be legalized in California. Businesses are obtaining resale licenses, however, the state is making it challenging for American Indian tribes to get the same licenses.
Permits awarded to local businesses are determined by individual counties and cities. These permits are then submitted to the state for the state approved license. However, tribal businesses must agree to work with only California recognized legal cannabis companies and give the state licensing power. Many tribes are opposed to this since they feel it violates their sovereignty rights.
A legislative bill is being drafted that would allow for local cannabis businesses to be licensed by the tribes. This will form the California Native American Cannabis Association. The bill is a combined effort between the cannabis regulatory commissioner for Santa Ysabel and Dave Vialpando. He was previously in law enforcement.
The Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel, after a failed Indian casino venture, evaluaed the cannabis industry to determine if it had commercial potential. The tribe is located east of San Diego. The financial failure of their casino cost the tribe nearly $50 million of debt. They needed to find a new way to generate income, and the cannabis industry looked promising.
The Iipay Nation is not the only tribe looking into developing a marijuana related business. It is a lucrative business for investors since Native American tribes do not pay the income taxes. The businesses would not fall under the same federal tax bill as other states.
19 tribes in California are in support of the proposed legislation.Back
February 09, 2018
A meeting for the Ridgecrest City Council was held on Wednesday. George Gholson, the Timbisha Shoshone Tribal Chairman was in attendance.
He was there to discuss the casino project that the tribe is working towards. However in a last minute move, the item was removed from the agenda.
There have been rumors that the tribe would be farming cannabis.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Gholson spoke up to address the issue. Social media and other unreliable sources had been giving information that was not true. He said that his tribe must adhere to the 25 CFR document.
The document covers all the rules that the tribe has to follow. The Bureau of Indian Affairs must approve much of what happens on the Shoshone's land.
Gholson stated that the tribe will never condone, sell, or carry cannabis in the city of Ridgecrest. That is not an endeavor that they are interested in pursuing.
For two years, the casino project for the tribe has been an ongoing controversy.
A very large crowd in favor of the casino project had showed for the city council meeting. However once it was known that the casino issue had been removed from the agenda, many of them had left.
There is a committee that had been formed for the casino project. It is made up of members from both the city and the tribe. This was formed to help address the issues that the local community and the tribal members have faced with the project. However, the committee has only managed to meet one time. The meetings have been canceled three other times.Back
October 31, 2017
The Winnemucca Indian Colony of Nevada rented 26 acres of land in Stockton to grow industrial hemp for research purposes. On Oct. 10, 2017 the DEA and the San Joaquin County Sheriff seized the crop claiming it was unlawful because it was not a state-approved university research program.
The tribe sued for a temporary restraining order and the return of the plants, but in Dec 2017 a federal judge rejected their case.
The U.S. Justice Department issued a new policy in 2014 that it would not prosecute federal laws for growing or selling marijuana on tribal lands, but federal drug authorities have frequently raided these crops.
September 7, 2017
California Native American Cannabis Association wants the California governor to ensure the new state cannabis rules accept tribal sovereignty and self-regulation. The tribes would like to participate independently within the new marijuana regulatory system.
"We should not be subjected to the business licensing structure that the state is putting in place because we are self-governing nations and should be treated as nations," Tina Braithwaite, Utu Utu Gwaitu Paiute Tribe Chair.
SAN DIEGO COUNTY
Sept 7, 2017
The ONAC is a Native American church is a place of healing and spiritual growth. The church says it is protected by federal religious freedom laws, and it claims marijuana as a religious sacrament. There are more than 200 chapters across the United States.
In September 2017 a task force of San Diego Police Department's Narcotic's Unit and the San Diego Sheriff's Department raided two marijuana dispensaries operating as the Oklevueha Native American Church. The dispensaries were located at:
ONAC Miramar Healing Center
7920 Arjons Drive
San Diego, CA
13313 Highway 8
Police seized 12 pounds of marijuana, 626 edibles and 404 concentrates.
Feb 4, 2016
Costa Mesa has banned sales of marijuana in its city, so when the Oklevueha Native American Church was setting up a local facility, the police thought it was a dispensary and raided to shut it down. A lawsuit was filed against the police action and the church is still operates at 2001 Harbor Blvd, Costa Mesa, CA 92627.
May 5, 2017
The Iipay Nation began developing a medical marijuana business after its casino failed in 2014. Their 35,000-square-foot casino is now a high-tech medical marijuana cultivation facility. Some of the space is leased to state-licensed growers who distribute their product to legal dispensaries across the state.
In 2015 the 700-member tribe created the Santa Ysabel Cannabis Regulatory Agency and Cannabis Commission to regulate cannabis production on their reservation. They were the first tribe in San Diego County to produce medical marijuana.
Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel
Santa Ysabel Tribal Office
Santa Ysabel, CA 92070
July 8, 2015
Federal officers from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Drug Enforcement Administration raided two growing sites on the Alturas Rancheria. One site was inside tribe's Event Center next to its Desert Rose Casino. The other was eight miles east of Alturas off Interstate 395.
The officers seized 12,000 plants and 100 pounds of processed marijuana. The search warrant cited the huge size of the growing operation was an indication of intention to move large quantites of marijuana off the reservation which could encounter potential violations of federal law.
September 28, 2015
A few months after the U.S. Justice Department issued its policy allowing the cultivation of cannabis on American Indian reservations, the Pinoleville Pomo Nation signed a $30 million deal with FoxBarry, a cannabis management firm.
In September 2015 local deputies in Mendocino County raided the two growing operations of the tribe near Ukiah. Law enforcment seized 400 plants and a 100 pounds of processed marijuana.
The raid left the legal issue of growing marijuana on sovereign native land very unclear. The issue was never established by federal law, state law or judicial decision.