Nevada’s Native American Tribes Are Betting Big on Marijuana


Nevada Native American tribal leaders can now deal directly with Governor Brian Sandoval on an issue that could bring economic development and support to their small communities thanks to a monumental bill Sandoval signed in June.

Senate Bill 375 allows for Nevada tribes to legally discuss cannabis regulation guidelines with the Governor’s office, saving a tremendous amount of time and bureaucratic red tape. Typically, there are laws preventing direct negotiations on matters of commerce between Native American tribes and state lawmakers.

As Nevada’s adult gaming landscape became crowded and oversaturated with casinos, an increasing number of tribes began looking elsewhere for revenue streams. With little to no economy in the desolate areas these tribes call home, money-making opportunities like the legal marijuana market don’t come around that often.

Three tribes are already jumping at the chance to get involved.

The Las Vegas Paiute Tribe, the Yerington Paiute Tribe, and the Ely Shoshone Tribe have all signed compacts with the State of Nevada that will allow them to grow cannabis, produce products like concentrate and edibles, conduct lab testing, and ultimately dispense products to consumers. The Paiute tribe in Las Vegas is scheduled to open a brand new facility later this month.

“This is really going to help us provide economic development to our tribe and services to our small community,” explained Diana Buckner, an Ely Shoshone Tribal Council Member. “The governor has worked with us on the legislation, and we commend him for working with tribes.”

While government relations with Native American Tribes have been even more tense than usual the last couple of years, certain provisions have been put in place to ensure the historically disenfranchised group gets a fair shot at establishing roots in the flourishing cannabis industry.

When the Cole Memo was introduced to protect state law-abiding marijuana enterprises from the wrath of the federal government, an extra layer of language was added shortly after to include guidance for groups living on tribal land via the Wilkinson Memo.

The Cole and Wilkinson Memorandums, in addition to Governor Sandoval’s willingness to engage with Native American Tribes on topics of marijuana commerce, should pave the way for tribes across Nevada to participate in the fruitful (and legal) marijuana industry without fear of further federal interference.

Image Courtesy of Allie Beckett

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