You can add the Native American tribes of California to the list of people who are none too pleased with the state’s two month-old legal cannabis program. However, the state’s tribes may have the most legitimate bone to pick with the new regulated market. They say the state’s cannabis laws infringe on the tribes’ long-standing rights to govern themselves.
California regulations currently mandate that cannabis businesses on tribal lands include in their license application a waiver of “sovereign immunity” and that they submit “to all enforcement,” as reported by the Associated Press.
According to tribal attorney Mark Levitan, seeking a license in the state’s cannabis market would mean tribal lands would have “have to give up their rights to act as governments, with regard to cannabis.”
As an alternative to giving up their sovereignty, tribes are considering the possibility of setting up a rival market of cannabis farms and retail businesses outside of the state-regulated system.
The California Native American Cannabis Association has warned state officials that tribes “may engage in commercial cannabis activities through our own inherent sovereign authority,” and that, if they do so, “the state will have no jurisdiction to enforce its cannabis laws and regulations on tribal lands.”
The group is hoping to be able to negotiate a deal with the state, and has sent a proposal to Gov. Jerry Brown’s office. The proposed pact hopes to strike a middle ground, allowing tribes to participate in the state’s cannabis market while also retaining “exclusive authority” to regulate cannabis commerce on tribal lands.
The confusion over cannabis law on tribal lands is mirrored in other states. In Washington, seven different tribes are attempting to make compacts with the governor’s office which would allow them to participate in the state’s legal cannabis program.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s withdrawal of the Cole Memo earlier this year, which lifted protections against federal interference of state-legalized marijuana programs, also affects tribal land, much of which is technically federal land, as the U.S. government still holds titles of the lands “on behalf of the tribe.”
Photo via Flickr user Ken Lund