Law | Opinion

Opinion: Vast opportunities for tribes and marijuana industry

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

Attorney Hilary Bricken is one of the co-organizers of the first-ever Tribal Marijuana Conference, which takes place February 27:
The federal government’s newly liberal policies regarding cannabis on tribal lands could be a financial boon for a large number of tribes, especially those in states where cannabis is either not yet legal or limited to few medical uses. The tribes in those states may be the only source for legal marijuana for all of the state’s citizens. In states with more advanced cannabis regimes (like Washington and Colorado), the tribes should be able to vigorously compete with legal sellers by imposing lower taxes with just as much product variety. Even in Washington and Colorado, we expect tribes to enact laws relatively more liberal than their surrounding communities, including potentially allowing for open consumption of cannabis at tribal resorts and casinos. In addition, the tribal marijuana memo nowhere prohibits existing non-tribal cannabis companies from conducting business with the tribes or on tribal lands, and already there has been a stampede of non-tribal cannabis businesses seeking to “partner” with various tribes.

The tribal marijuana memo states that tribes “should” consult with the U.S. Attorney in their jurisdiction before implementing tribal-forged marijuana laws. Not every U.S. Attorney is going to be on board with tribes legalizing cannabis and each retains considerable power to stop it. The intersection of federal, state, and tribal law and jurisdiction is complex and we are recommending to our tribal clients that they work closely with their local U.S. Attorney in securing approval of their particular legalization regime.

The opportunities for Native American Tribes in the cannabis industry are vast and as it has been the case with casino gaming, fireworks, and cigarettes, many tribes will immensely benefit from cannabis while others will opt out entirely.

Get the Story:
Hilary Bricken: Federal Tribal Marijuana Memo Isn’t Just Blowing Smoke (Above The Law 2/16)

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

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