Photo by Nicholas A. Tonelli
In a completely unexpected move from the United States Justice Department, the federal organization recently announced that Native American tribes have been legally granted the ability to grow and sell cannabis on their lands across the country.
According to regulations detailed in the 3-page memo, as long as the tribes observe and abide by federal rules currently in places for states that have legalized cannabis, they won’t face any sort of legal punishment or prosecution. Additionally, any sales made by the 556 nationally-recognized tribes in the U.S. will be exempt from state and local taxes, prompting analysts to estimate a “financial bonanza” for Natives who decide to take the government up on what appears to be a no-strings-attached offer.
Although it may appear to be a move in a progressive direction, many tribal leaders and residents are rightfully suspicious of the seemingly sudden change of heart. Especially, Executive Director of the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission Ron Andrade.
“It’s like the medical marijuana clinics here in California,” he said. “Yeah, you can have one, but we’ll still arrest you.”
Interestingly, when President Obama met with tribal leaders at the White House earlier this month, he failed to mention the change in policy.
“We don’t know if this is a scam,” Andrade said. “Obama has been very much a smoke-and-mirrors president. Talk is cheap. And we should be used to that after 300 years, but some tribal leaders still think they’re going to hear truth. Well, they’re not.”
Still, there are others like Oregon resident and former Klamath Tribes chairman Jeff Mitchell, who are confident and optimistic about the potential outcome of this new decision.
“I have confidence in tribal government that they will deal with it appropriately and they’ll take into consideration social and legal aspects, as well as other implications that go along with bringing something like that into a community,” Mitchell said.
It will be some time before the effects of this decision are evident including whether or not this change in policy will affect and financial health and vibrancy of other nearby states with legal markets and if tribes will be able to keep weed out of the hands of residents in neighboring states. If nothing else, the landmark decision is just another step towards ending cannabis prohibition on a federal level.
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