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Lummi Nation leader announces meeting to discuss marijuana

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

Henry Cagey, a council member and former chair of the Lummi Nation of Washington, will be holding a meeting this month to discuss marijuana in Indian Country.

Cagey wants to form the Tribal Cannabis Association. He hopes the group will encourage tribes to work together to address marijuana development on their lands.

"I believe that the development of marijuana businesses in Indian Country raises important issues that tribal leaders need to discuss,” Cagey said. “Whether one supports legalization efforts or opposes them, there is much research and legal development that must be done. tribes should work together whenever possible to protect our sovereignty and help our Native people."

The meeting will take place on February 28, the day after the first-ever Tribal Marijuana Conference. Both events are being held at the Tulalip Resort Casino, owned by the Tulalip Tribes.

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.

More information about the Tribal Cannabis Association follows:
Discussion Regarding Formation of a Tribal Cannabis Association

February 28, 2015, 9a-12p
Tulalip Resort Casino, Quil Ceda Village, Washington

The Opportunity. In a memorandum to all U.S. Attorneys dated October 28, 2014, the U.S. Justice Department announced a change in enforcement policy governing marijuana cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, possession and use in Indian Country (“Wilkinson Memo”). This change in policy has invited intense discussion among tribal leaders and tribal citizens as to the future of commercial marijuana cultivation, possession, and use within their sovereign territories, as well as for medical applications. U.S. Attorneys in districts where Indian territories are located are required to consult with tribal governments seeking to legalize marijuana within their territories.

The Challenge. Marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, the cultivation, sale, and possession of which may carry felony consequences, life imprisonment, and significant fines. Nonetheless, in 2013, the U.S. Justice Department announced enforcement policy deferential to “robust” state and local regulation (“Cole Memo”) and the states of Colorado and Washington have enacted legislation to fully legalize marijuana cultivation, possession for recreational use as a result. 23 states have legalized medicinal applications and the U.S. Congress has barred the Department of Justice from using federal funds to interfere with these efforts.

In Indian Country, however, the legal foundation remains unstable, the policy direction is unclear, and the tribal laws, procedures, and protocols necessary for legalization have not been developed. Moreover, considerable advocacy remains before the federal and state governments to stabilize this opportunity for tribal governments. There is great risk right now and uninformed and rash decision-making could jeopardize the opportunity not just for particular tribal nations, but for ALL tribal nations.

The Justification for Collective Action. Tribal leaders interested in learning more about the potential benefits of marijuana legalization, as well as those already committed to pursuing legalization within their nations and tribes, have a strong common interest in working together. Though application of particular legalization initiatives will remain tribe-specific, there are several areas where pooling financial resources and working collectively can provide mutual benefit in a cost-effective manner, including the following:
• Research on the best policy options to pursue medicinal or recreational marijuana use
• Developing model tribal regulatory protocols and laws
• Advocacy at the federal government level to protect tribal sovereignty and tribal policy making --
• Specific advocacy with the U.S. attorneys and the Justice Department to ensure equitable treatment for Indian nations throughout the United States
• Advocacy at the state government level to prevent state interference and to protect tribal sovereignty
• Information sharing on companies engaged in the marijuana business

Meeting Invitation and Fees. The organizational meeting is open to officials of Indian tribal governments, tribal citizens, and their attorneys /representatives. There is no charge to attend.

Convenor. Henry Cagey, Council member and former Chairman of the Lummi Nation, will be convening the meeting and facilitating the discussion.

Registration Required. Individuals interested in attending the meeting should pre-register by contacting Megan Nord at or (206) 224-5657. Registration to attend this meeting ends on February 27, 2015 at 8 p.m.

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

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