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First-ever conference to focus on marijuana in Indian Country

A dispensary in Denver, Colorado. Photo from O'Dea / Wikipedia

The first-ever conference on marijuana in Indian Country will be held next month amid growing interest in cultivation of the drug.

Robert Odawi Porter, an attorney and former president of the Seneca Nation of New York, is a co-organizer of the Tribal Marijuana Conference. He said the February 27 event will help tribes understand the social, political, economic and cultural issues surrounding a drug that has become legal under certain conditions in more than 30 states.

"Given recent developments, we are excited to announce this historic opportunity for tribal leaders to gain a better understanding of the implications of marijuana legalization in their territories," said Porter. "We are bringing together some of the best, most experienced lawyers and commentators at the intersection of Indian law and marijuana law to share their experience in addressing the evolving issues surrounding recreational and medicinal marijuana usage in Indian Country. Our goal is to pursue a balanced discussion of the important legal, business, social, and cultural questions that would inevitably affect Native societies were legalization to occur."

The conference will be held at the Tulalip Resort Casino in Washington. The Tulalip Tribes aren't a sponsor and the tribe hasn't legalized marijuana but Vice Chairman Les Parks is due to appear on a panel for the event.

Other speakers include Henry Cagey, a council member for the Lummi Nation of Washington, and Troy Eid, the chairman of the Indian Law and Order Commission and a former U.S. attorney.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law. But a new Department of Justice policy could open the door to tribes that want to legalize the drug.

The Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of Montana has legalized marijuana for medical purposes. In California, the Pinoleville Pomo Nation has signed a deal to host a grow operation that will supply marijuana to medical dispensaries.

The Red Lake Nation of Minnesota will conduct a feasibility study on the drug but the tribe is far from a vote on the issue.

Relevant Documents:
Policy Statement Regarding Marijuana Issues in Indian Country (October 2014)

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