California Tribes and Marijuana

Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded all Justice Department marijuana policies from the Obama-era on Jan 4, 2018. Change is coming and the following information will be updated as it happens.

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. [ See DOJ Policy Dec 2014 ]

Marijuana Use is Legal in California

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
(833) 768-5880

California Food & Agriculture Department
3180 Cridge St, Riverside, CA 92507
Phone: (916) 654-0466

California Department of Public Health

Federally-Recognized Tribes in California

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.

Cannabis Opportunities for California Tribes

Nevada Tribe Sues DEA for Seizure of California Hemp Crop

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.

Tribes Form the "California Native American Cannabis Association"

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.

Oklevueha Native American Church Raids by Police

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

ONAC Lakeside
13313 Highway 8
Lakeside, CA

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.


Iipay Nation Turns to Marijuana Cultivation after Casino Fails

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
(760) 765-0845

2015 Raid on Alturas Rancheria in Modoc County

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.

2015 Raid on Pinoleville Pomo Nation Marijuana Crops

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.