500 Nations Casino

American Indian Tribes in the Cannabis Industry

The Uncertainties in New Business Opportunities

What did Indians smoke? Cannabis is not an indigenous plant in America. It was brought by Europeans. Early tribes smoked either Nicotiana Rustica, a wild tobacco, or kinnikinnick, an herbal mixture of leaves and barks.

Tribal Enterprises in the Cannabis Industry

News Hemp growing on Pine Ridge Reservation September 15, 2018 - Alex Plume is a South Dakota farmer who is growing hemp on the Pine Ridge Reservation. He is selling his crop to a Colorado company in defiance of current federal law. ... Read more News Medical marijuana remains illegal on Oklahoma tribal lands June 29, 2018 - Although medical marijuana is legalized in Oklahoma, the state's tribes have not agreed to allow any marijuana on their tribal lands. ... Read more News Yurok Tribe banned on any new cannabis businesses and farms by Humboldt County June 19, 2018 - The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted to block the Yurok Tribe from growing or selling cannabis on their reservation. ... Read more News Mohawk territory has large number of new marijuana dispensary startups May 27, 2018 - The Tyendinaga Mohawk have opened 42 marijuana shops across Mohawk territory. They believe they can operate any type of cannabis business within their territory. ... Read more News California tribes blocked from cannabis market and may go own way May 23, 2018 - Tribes may be forced by state regulations to develop their own cannabis industry. If they agree to state licensing they could lose their right of self-governance on their own land. ... Read more News The Rebirth of Tribal Hemp
April 21, 2016 - Many American Indian tribes are planning to farm hemp as a new source of income. Among them are the Coliville, Meskwaki, Mandan, Menominee and Lakota. ... Read more
News Paiute Tribe's marijuana dispensary sponsors Las Vegas Lights April 13, 2018 - The Las Vegas Lights soccer team has a new sponsorship from NuWu Cannabis Marketplace, a marijuana dispensary owned by the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe. ... Read more News Trump lifts legal threat to state marijuana laws
April 13, 2018 - The President announced he will allow states continue their legalized marijuana laws without prosecution from the Department of Justice. ... Read more
News Rand Paul Supports Kentucky Medical Marijuana Bill March 13, 2018 - U.S. Senator Rand Paul is giving his support for a state bill being proposed that would legalize marijuana for medical use in the state of Kentucky. ... Read more News Oklahoma places medical marijuana on June ballot May 4, 2018 - Oklahoma voters will decide whether or not to legalize medical marijuana. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation has expressed interest in farming and selling it. ... Read more Continued

February 2018

News U.S. Governors ignoring Sessions marijuana enforcement February 27, 2018 - During the annual meeting of our nation's governors there were many discussions about implementing state marijuana regulations. Sec. Sessions did not attend. ... Read more News Will California Tribes start own cannabis industry?
February 27, 2018 - Many of the 100 American Indian tribes in California are looking for ways of develop an alternative cannabis industries as sovereign nations. ... Read more
News Alberta defines rules for cannabis retail stores
February 16, 2018 - The new Alerta marijuana distribution regulations were recently released defining legal ways to sell marijuana and provide safe products to the Alberta citizens. ... Read more
News California Tribal Cannabis Licenses are Hindered by State Government February 14, 2018 - California is making it more difficult for American Indian Tribes to obtain cannabis resale licenses by restricting the tribes to work with only California licensed companies. ... Read more News St. Croix Tribe Sues State To Grow Hemp
February 12, 2018 - A lawsuit has been filed by the St. Croix Chippewa Indians against the State of Wisconsin for trying to stop the tribe's production of hemp oil. ... Read more
News St. Croix Chippewa sue State over hemp business February 9, 2018 - The tribe has sued the Wisconsin state attorney general for trying to prevent the production of hemp oil on sovereign reservation land ... Read more News Ridgecrest Tribe prohibits cannabis
February 9, 2018 - Amid rumors of plans to grow and sell cannabis on their reservation, the Timbisha Shoshone Tribal Chairman stated that the tribe will "never condone, sell, or carry cannabis" in the city of Ridgecrest. ... Read more
News Congress May Block DOJ Prosecution of Medical Marijuana in 2-Year Budget
February 10, 2018 - A budget deal may block the DOJ from money needed to enforce anti-cannabis laws in states that has voter approval for medical marijuana ... Read more

January 2018

News White Bear First Nation seeks marijuana dispensary January 27, 2018 - The White Bear First Nation is considering options for operating a marijuana dispensary on their reservation. ... Read more News Suquamish Tribe open Agate Dreams dispensary January 27, 2018 - When recreational cannabis sales become legal in the state of Washington, the Suquamish tribe decided to open a dispensary named Agate Dreams. ... Read more News Ely Shoshone open marijuana dispensary January 8, 2018 - On the Ely Shoshone Tribal land is a cannabis dispensary named Tsaa Nesunkwa. It opened in October offering medical marijuana. Now it sells marijuana for recreational use. ... Read more News Nevada Tribes and their cannabis businesses January 7, 2018 - Last year SB 375 was signed into law giving way to the legal selling of marijuana. This may be a lucrative business for Nevada's Native ... Read more News S'Klallam Tribe will open "High Point" a marijuana retail store on March 3   January 4, 2018 - High Point will begin selling marijuana March 3, 2018 in a temporary building just north of the tribe's Gliding Eagle Market. ... Read more News U.S. Justice Dept Rescinds All Obama Marijuana Policies January 4, 2018 - The DOJ today rescinded all cannabis policies of the Obama Administration that allowed states to decide their own laws on recreational and medical cannabis. ... Read more

2017

News Las Vegas Paiute Tribe Opens "Nuwu Cannabis Marketplace" in Downtown Las Vegas 10.17.2017 - Nuwu Cannabis Marketplace is a 15,500 square foot marijuana dispensary located in downtown Las Vegas. ... Read more News First Nevada Tribes Sign Marijuana Compacts
08.03.2017 - Nevada' governor has signed the first state marijuana compacts with tow tribes: the Ely Shoshone Tribe and the Yerington Paiute Tribe. ... Read more
News St. Croix Chippewa Will Grow Hemp for CBD Oil
09.27.2017 - The tribe plans to grow hemp for medical use. They will produce CBD Oil which contains low levels of THC. ... Read more

Cannabis Businesses on American Indian Reservations

The United States government recognizes 568 tribes as sovereign nations and their lands as sovereign lands. Of these tribes there are 333 living in 33 states and the remainder living in Alaska.

Background

In November 2012 Colorado and Washington voted to legalize the sale and possession of cannabis, which are violations the federal Controlled Substance Act (CSA). This prompted the U.S. Justice Department to issue a policy statement regarding enforcement guidelines for U.S. Attorneys in these states with legalized marijuana.

The Justice Department policy, known as the Cole Memorandum, was published August 29, 2013 telling federal prosecutors and law enforcement to not obstruct state marijuana laws if the drug is regulated to insure key federal priorities. Federal enforcement priorities were distribution to minors, DUI, sales by gangs and cartels, possession or use on federal property, transfers to non-legalized states, drug trafficking, or violence.

Several American Indian tribes were concerned about marijuana legalization and asked the Justice Department to clarify its position for marijuana on tribal lands.

The DOJ followed with the Wilkinson Memo, "Policy Statement Regarding Marijuana Issues in Indian Country," dated October 28, 2014. It parallels the Cole Memo by defining and limiting the conditions for U.S. Attorneys to enforce federal marijuana laws on tribal lands. Tribes will not be prosecuted for growing, processing and selling marijuana inside states that have legalized the drug. This includes medical marijuana per the DOJ's 2009 Ogden Memo.

There remains great uncertainty of enforcement on tribal lands in other states where the drug is illegal. Several tribes are exploring these opportunities and legalities and waiting for further guidance from the federal government.

U.S. Justice Dept Rescinds All Obama-era Marijuana Policies

On January 4, 2018 Attorney General Sessions announced the repeal of all department regulatory memorandums that attempt to supercede Congressional legislation. This include these specific DOJ marijuana policies:

  • Cole Memo 2013: "Guidance Regarding Marijuana Enforcement" Cole Memo (PDF)

  • Wilkinson Memo 2014: "Policy Statement Regarding Marijuana Issues in Indian Country" Wilkinson Memo (PDF)

  • Ogden Memo 2009: "Investigations and Prosecutions in States Authorizing the Medical Use of Marijuana" Ogden Memo (PDF)

The Cole Memorandum in 2013 set guidelines for non-enforcement of the the Controlled Substance Act (CSA) in states that legalize marijuana. The Wilkinson Memorandum 2014 gave similar guidelines for marijuana on American Indian reservations.

The rescinded memoranda were department and not federal law passed by Congress and signed by the president.

The repeal action was issued as a DOJ Memorandum titled "Prohibition on Improper Guidance Documents", dated November 16, 2017. Session Memo (PDF)

The immediate reaction from state officials and industry figures was shock and defiance. Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado made this statement in response to the policy rescission:

"Thirty states comprising more than two-thirds of the American people have legalized marijuana in some form. The Cole memo got it right and was foundational in guiding states' efforts to regulate the production and distribution of marijuana."

"Colorado has created a comprehensive regulatory system committed to supporting the will of our voters. We constantly evaluate and seek to strengthen our approach to regulation and enforcement. Our focus will continue to be the public health and public safety of our citizens. We are expanding efforts to eliminate the black market and keep marijuana out of the hands of minors and criminals. Today's decision does not alter the strength of our resolve in those areas, nor does it change my constitutional responsibilities."

States where Marijuana Is Illegal in 2018

There are 20 states with lawas against any use of marijuana: Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

Will Tribes Continue to Sell Cannabis?

Jan 5, 2018

The federal policy change has tribes seeking more DOJ information and guidance regarding their business future.

Tribal Cannabis Consulting works with Nevada tribes to develop their marijuana sales. Cassandra Dittus, co-founder and president of the group, said tribal businesses are in a "holding pattern."

"We would hope that the tribal programs that are up and running in the state of Nevada would not be an enforcement priority for the Department of Justice's resources as the programs are very robustly regulated and not a threat or a danger to the community."

"The community desires this, the voters approved this and the tribal program is extremely regulated."


State-by-State Cannabis Map

Some tribes have banned marijuana on their reservations. Some tribes are evaluating potential business opporutnities. Other tribes have already started marijuana businesses. For information on these tribes, select a state below:

Select a State

Click a state on the map or scroll down below the map for a list of states to get more information.

 
  9 states and DC have recreational and medical marijuana

 
  21 states have legalized medical marijuana

 
  Illegal in 20 states

AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY

News Updates

The Rebirth of Tribal Hemp

April 21, 2018

Many Native American tribes are considering the farming of hemp as a new source of income. It is being a new way to support the needs of challenges that many people face in a holistic approach. Among them are the Coliville, Meskwaki, Mandan, Menominee, Lakota, and others.

The hemp industry in the United States accounts for $700 million in annual revenue.

It is being used for medicine, food, clothing, and fuel. Some new uses can replace cotton, plastic, and lumber. There are 10,000 known uses for the plant. Tribes are looking at the plant and the uses to help change in their communities.

The tribes are beginning to speak publicly about their plans to farm hemp. Some are starting to meet with state lawmakers.

The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation are developing industrial hemp plans. They have grown the largest amount of hemp plants, at 60 acres just this last year. One benefit that the tribe would like to use the hemp industry for is to attract their members to stay on their land. Many times, the tribal children leave for college and do not return to their land. The hemp industry would be used as a way to keep skilled and educated people back to their tribal economy and help rebuild it.

For many, the hemp industry is seen as way to assist with social change on the reservations. Not so much about the money. The Intertribal Hemp Association was formed for Native American communities to be educated about hemp. Also, to form tribal collaborations in the hemp industry.

Back

Trump lifts legal threat to state marijuana laws

April 13, 2018

On Friday an announcement was made that President Donald Trump will continue to allow states with legalized marijuana laws to continue their operations. They may do so without prosecution from the Department of Justice.

On January 04, 2018 U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo that allowed states to determine their own laws towards marijuana. It has been wildly speculated that there would be lawsuits from the DOJ against the states that allow the growing, cultivating, selling, and consumption of marijuana.

It is considered a Schedule I substance and is considered a violation of the federal law to have it.

The president recently met with Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.). Gardner promised to block all nominees for the Justice Department as long as the president continued to threaten the state legal marijuana industry in Colorado.

On Wednesday the Senator Gardner was informed by President Donald Trump that he would be supportive of legislation that would amend the federal law to approve cannabis laws at the state level.

Currently there has not been any changes to the federal law. However, states with legalized cannabis laws will not face federal prosecution.

A few of the nominees will be unfrozen by Gardner after the agreement was made between him and Trump. This will be done in good faith that the president will not change his mind.

Before the phone call was made by President Trump, the Justice Department was not informed of the president's position.

Back

U.S. Governors ignoring Sessions marijuana enforcement

February 27, 2018

Every year a meeting is held in Washington DC for the country's governors to meet with the president and officials of the administration. One topic of conversation was how to successfully implement marijuana regulation in their state. This is despite the Attorney General Jeff Sessions redaction of the Cole Memo.

Private meetings to discuss marijuana policy with Sessions was denied. This brought frustration to governors that wanted to address the issue. Sessions only attended a few events. One was for the anti-opioid briefing. The other was for the Governor's Ball.

It is believed that state recognized legal operations would be prosecuted. However, this possibility has not stopped the states from moving forward with the marijuana business.

A campaign heavily focused on legalizing marijuana in Virginia may have been what helped elect Ralph Northam, the new state governor. He wants the reclassification of marijuana to be approved by Congress. Northam is a physician and believes that marijuana has many benefits for medical use. He also is pushing for more medical research to be conducted. However, since the drug has Schedule 1 narcotic listing, this makes it difficult to conduct research.

Medical marijuana dispensaries are being opened in more states. Recently Hawaii approved medical marijuana and will soon have dispensaries on all of the eight islands.

In 2006 Rhode Island approved medical marijuana. There are three dispensaries in the state. Currently there is a proposed measure that would allow up to nine dispensaries.

It is possible that Oklahoma could also legalize medical marijuana. Voters will decide on the issue in June.

Utah will also be voting in the fall is they want to expand their medical marijuana laws.

Back

Congress May Block DOJ Prosecution of Medical Marijuana in 2-Year Budget

February 10, 2018

Recently the federal government agreed on a budget for federal operations to be funded for the next two years. In the budgeta a deal was renewed for the amendment that would protect medical marijuana. The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment prevents the Department of Justice from spending money on enforcing the laws and prosecution on medical marijuana cases in states with legalized medical marijuana.

The budget has not been finalized as of yet. On March 23 it will be submitted for another review. It is possible that the amendment could be removed at that time.

The amount of money that each department of the government is assigned is determined by the federal budget.

The amendment stops the Department of Justice from using any of the money towards enforcing anti cannabis laws in states that has voter approval for medical marijuana. The DOJ is not allowed to spend any budget money on the prosecution of individual people or businesses under this amendment.

If the government succeeds in another shut down and the amendment does not receive final renewal approval, there is a chance that the Department of Justice could enforce the federal marijuana laws during the shut down. This could affect 29 stateas that have approved marijuana laws.

The cannabis industry is very complex within the legal system. Some states have chosen to legalize both medical and recreational. Oher states have chosen to legalize just for medical use. Some states have voted to legalize use under certain conditions only.

Since the legalization of marijuana as a federal law has been so controversial, the amendment was made to help the states that have chosen to legalize.

Back

U.S. Justice Dept Rescinds All Obama Marijuana Policies

DOJ

January 04, 2018

On Thursday the Justice Department rescinded policies that allowed states to decide their own laws on cannabis for recreational and medical use. The policies were written under the Obama administration.

A memo was issued by Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated that there would be a "return to the rule of law".

Previously states were given permission under the Cole Memo to determine what cannabis laws they wanted to implement. The memo was written by former Deputy Attorney General James Cole.

Under the Sessions memo, there will be a certain amount of discretion when it comes to investigation and prosecution.

Marijuana was still listed as an illegal substance under federal law under the Obama policy. However, it lessened the criminal prosecution towards people caught with the drug that did not have connections with drug cartels or gangs.

President Trump believes that federal law should be enforced in all states.

The memo by Sessions was released the same week that California began allowing adults to buy recreational marijuana.

Voter approval has been given for marijuana use in 8 states. Those are Colorado, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Maine.

The sale of pot in these states has created a new way to generate revenue through sales tax. It is estimated that California could earn up to $5.1 billion in 2018 from this sales tax. Colorado has been using the sales tax for construction of schools, educational scholarships, and treatment centers for drug addictions.

The ability to prosecute the cannabis industry has existed within the federal courts.

The legalization of cannabis in different forms is supported by 60% of Americans.

Medical use is currently available in 29 states. Congress has approved the medical of marijuana. However, that policy is set to expire this month. It is uncertain if Congress will approve it again.

Back