Originally published December 18 2014
Federal government finally loosens restrictions on Native Americans' right to grow, sell marijuana
by PF Louis
(NaturalNews) The federal government issued a statement that the Justice Department's DEA would not be going after federally sanctioned reservations if they wanted to grow and sell their own marijuana.
This decision was based on Oregon U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall's expressed concern from tribal members about growing marijuana on reservations in states that legalized its use recently: Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Alaska.
"That's been the primary message tribes are getting to us as U.S. attorneys," Marshall said from Portland, according to The Seattle Times. "What will the U.S. as federal partners do to assist tribes in protecting our children and families, our tribal businesses, our tribal housing?"
According to Marshall, three unnamed tribes, one from the Midwest, another from California and one from Washington, had expressed interest.
The USA has 326 federally recognized native tribal reservations. Most of them are in states that don't allow even medical marijuana use. Yet the answer was that reservations can make their own rules about marijuana, an interesting response that has some growers and marijuana shops in legalized states concerned about potential competition.
Those concerns are based on how tribes have profited from reservation sales of untaxed cigarettes and how some tribes have successfully exploited gaming casinos. It's been observed that profits from such enterprises do directly benefit tribal reservations more than gaming casinos benefit non-tribal communities that have gambling.
Alison Holcomb, who was largely involved with drafting Washington state's current legal marijuana status, claimed, "The reality is that so much of the market depends on convenience, it's not just price that drives consumer choices."
But John Evich, owner of a legal marijuana store near two Indian reservations in Bellingham, Washington, disagreed. He used to stock up on chewing tobacco at the Nooksack reservation because it was 30 percent cheaper. Medical marijuana is not taxed, but recreational marijuana is.
Stipulations for the federal reservation allowancesApparently, the DEA won't be messing with tribes as long as they don't sell to minors, refrain from involvement with criminal suppliers, honor state laws with citizens outside the reservations and do not transport cannabis over state lines.
It's expected that some states will not go along with the ruling regarding reservations. According to media reports, not many tribes are actually currently interested in the pot boom. As a matter of fact, many of them have chased growers off their lands that are used for fishing and hunting, even in Washington state where it's legal.
But that's more a territorial issue than a drug issue. Oregon Klamath Tribe Ex-Chairman Jeff Mitchell said that reservations will deal with the issue carefully. "I have confidence in tribal government that they will deal with it appropriately," said Mitchell.
Some reservations in states that don't allow medical or recreational marijuana have independently banned marijuana use on reservations. But one tribe that will welcome this recent federal decision is the Oklevueha tribe of Hawaii.
Marijuana has been a part of the Oklevueha Native American Church's (NAC) spiritual ceremony for some time. But in 2009, a FedEx shipment of around five pounds of cannabis intended for Michael Rex "Raging Bear" Mooney of the Oklevueha NAC was seized by the DEA. Mooney and the Oklevueha NAC demanded the package be returned for religious ceremony use.
But the package had been turned over to the Honolulu Police Department, which destroyed the contents. So Mooney and the NAC went to court and demanded compensation, which was at first denied on the grounds that, since the government no longer held the cannabis, it couldn't be returned.
Compensation may not have been granted, but the Oklevueha NAC continues its cannabis use. The American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA) was passed in 1978 to allow peyote use for religious rituals, but it had to be amended in 1994 to better ensure total protection of that 10,000-year-old ritual.
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