Marijuana and Indian Tribes: First steps forward
Indian reservations now have the opportunity to cultivate and sell cannabis if they so choose under authority granted to them from the Department of Justice. The federal government has made it clear that if tribes approve legislation to legalize cannabis, it will not interfere with the process. Though there is some reluctance to follow through given the substance abuse problems already prevalent on reservations, Indian tribes are at least interested in learning more about the potential impacts of the cannabis industry.
Launched just over a few weeks ago at a reservation economic summit in Las Vegas, the National Indian Cannabis Coalition (“NICC”) is the nation’s first Indian trade organization focused on marijuana and Indian tribes.
The NICC seeks to educate the Indian community about the legalization and regulation of on-reservation marijuana. One of the NICC’s main goals is to help guide Indian tribal members who are interested in cannabis cultivation. Specifically, the NICC aims to provide information on cannabis medical benefits, methods of production and investments with public health and safety considerations. The NICC is also aware that proper financing and design plans are necessary for effective cannabis cultivation and it hopes to assist tribes with these issues as they decide to move forward. Furthermore, the NICC firmly believes that a united front from Indian tribal leaders will bring about more strength and power in the cannabis industry.
NICC co-chair Allyson Doctor, one partner of a licensed cannabis facility in Northern Las Vegas, hopes that the organization will help answer questions related to cannabis policy and regulation. Doctor also hopes that the NICC will help fill gaps in an area where such a resource is needed at this time. According to Doctor, though many tribal leaders are supportive in moving forward not everyone is equally as thrilled. Some tribes feel that it is not in their best interest to actively participate in this industry.
Currently, the NICC is not charging tribal members any membership fees, but hopes to cover its costs through vendor sponsorship. Doctor also hopes that such sponsors could serve as potential partners for the Indian community in the near future. This is particularly important for Indian tribes who are interested in marijuana cultivation in territories located in states where there is currently no retail or medical marijuana industry present.
In addition to the NICC’s formation, other organizations are running legal conferences directed at Indian tribal governments who are considering whether to legalize for medical, recreational, or agricultural purposes. It is likely that the NICC will be active in such future conferences as the goals of such conferences, and the NICC, will overlap substantially. These types of conferences will provide yet another arena for Indian tribal leaders to learn the ins and outs of the cannabis industry.