By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
December 19, 2014
WASHINTON, D.C. – Thursday of last week, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) said it would no longer prosecute federal laws regulating the growth or sales of marijuana on the reservations of Native Americans.
According to a recent article by the Associated Press (AP), some advocates for the legalization of marijuana said it “could open new markets across the country and give rise to a rich new business on reservations, not unlike the advent of casino gambling. Others said it was too early to tell; many tribes oppose legalization, and only a handful of tribes have expressed any interest in the marijuana business.”
The decision by the DOJ comes after Native American tribes inquired about how the legalization of marijuana in states such as Oregon, Washington and Colorado applies to their sovereign lands. US Attorney Amanda Marshall in Portland told the AP that tribes were primarily concerned about the way the federal government would partner with them to protect their children, families, tribal businesses and tribal housing. “How will you help us combat marijuana abuse in ‘Indian Country’ when states are no longer there to partner with us?” she said tribes were asking.
Marshall also told the AP only three tribes – “one each in California, Washington State and the Midwest” had voiced any interest in legalizing weed at their reservations. She didn’t identify which tribes.
A Washington Post article reported that Timothy Purdon, the US Attorney for North Dakota and chairman for the attorney general’s subcommittee on Native American issues, explained that the federal government will not enforce federal pot laws as long as reservations comply with the same guidelines provided by the states that have opted for legalization. But he added the federal government will continue supporting marijuana bans passed by tribal governments, even if the state allows recreational use.
“What this means is that the matter of legalization is being left up to the tribe,” said Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “Theoretically, it means the DOJ isn’t going to fight it, even if state law bans its use.”
The Washington Post states, “The United States has 326 federally recognized reservations, most in states that ban recreational marijuana. But whether reservations will become free zones for the drug depends on the decisions of tribal governments, many of which have struggled against drug and alcohol addiction within their borders.”
In an article published on Wednesday, titled Will the Cherokee Grow Weed? John Boyle, a writer for the Asheville Citizen Times queried, “Now that the Justice Department says tribes can do it legally, will the Cherokee grow marijuana and sell it in their casino?…That’s exactly what gamblers need – less critical thinking ability, more desire to eat expensive snacks. How do you say, ‘Ka-ching!’ in Cherokee?”
Boyle went on to write that according to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians principal chief, Michell Hicks, it’s too early to tell whether this would be an option for the Cherokee.
Boyle quotes the chief as saying, “I’ve got the Attorney General for the tribe working on a white paper, as far as how these (rules) apply to the Eastern Band of Cherokee. So it’s under evaluation at this point. Until I get the legal aspect from our attorney, I don’t have any comment.”
WLOS News 13 is saying the proposition has residents of Cherokee talking. ”Because the Cherokee reservation occupies parts of Jackson and Swain counties, law enforcement says it needs to do more research before making a statement.”
“I haven’t been able to confirm anything from the Cherokee about this matter and how it relates to their tribe at this point,” said Dr. Creech. “But even the possibility this could become a reality is something the Christian Action League will be vigilant to monitor and use whatever influence it has to oppose any and all initiatives for legalization.”
Marijuana growth or use remains illegal under federal law. Nevertheless, medicinal marijuana has been legalized in 23 states. During the mid-term elections this year, Oregon and Alaska approved by referendums the recreational use of marijuana, which are set to take effect in 2015. Washington D.C. also approved the use of recreational marijuana by a two to one margin in a referendum that Congress defunded, essentially overturning, in the budget measure that passed last week.
During the 2013 session of the North Carolina General Assembly, the House Rules Committee resoundingly gave an unfavorable report to a legislative proposal for the legalization of medicinal marijuana in the Tar Heel state.