Native American Tribes Capitalize on Cannabis | Marijuana

Native American Tribes Capitalize on Cannabis


Native American tribes in Nevada are expanding beyond casinos and venturing into the cannabis industry. In June, Governor Brian Sandoval signed Senate Bill 375 and Senate Bill 396, which allow Nevada’s Native American tribes to directly negotiate with the state over the use and sale of medicinal marijuana on tribal lands.

Nevada Native American tribes like the Yerington Paiute Tribe, the Ely Shoshone Tribe, and the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe formed an agreement with the State of Nevada that allows them to grow cannabis, produce concentrates and edibles, perform lab-testing, and dispense marijuana products to customers.

In 2016, the Las Vegas Paiute held a ceremony on Snow Mountain Indian Reserve to bless the site of one of the largest medical marijuana cultivation and production facilities in Nevada with at least two dispensaries and three greenhouses on a 15,000-square foot facility that will be called the Nu Wu Cannabis Marketplace.

While the Nevada government enacts hefty taxes on marijuana sales, some Native American tribes are looking to amend tribal laws that may lead to tax-free cannabis. How is this possible? The U.S. Supreme court recognizes tribal sovereignty, which allows the Native American people to self-govern. Though individuals are responsible for federal income taxes as U.S. citizens, tribes are not subject to federal income taxes on their earnings and can form business corporations to keep their income exempt.

Tribal Cannabis Consulting (TCC) specializes in Native American cannabis policy and established the first cannabis compact, which allowed tribal and state governments to establish business agreements signed by Nevada’s governor. The firm aims to expand Native American economic presence in the marijuana marketplace and helps tribes create their own regulatory codes for matters like issuing medical marijuana cards.

Together, tribes and the state government are working to develop a governing system that will outline and enforce marijuana cultivation and sale on Native American Land and establish a universal agreement that will keep dispensaries in accordance with their state and federal laws.

“Our ancestors used it before as medicine,” said Benny Tso, chairman of the Las Vegas Paiute council. “The Paiute people are about helping other people, so this medicine that we’re going to provide for Nevada is going to be truly a blessing for both for Nevada and the tribe.”

Native American tribes have seen success in other states when it comes to selling cannabis on tribal land. In Washington, two tribes have been operating shops successfully for years. The Squamish Tribe opened Agate Dreams in December 2015 and the Squaxin Island Tribe’s Elevation dispensary has been serving cannabis customers since November of the same year.

Both tribes worked closely with the State of Washington and the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board to ensure compliance with state regulations. They entered into a ten-year compact that allows them to charge non-Native customers the same tax rate as the rest of the state. The tax revenue collected remains the property of the Tribe.

In California, however, Native American Tribes in the northern part of the state have encountered difficulties.

The Pinoleville Pomo Nation announced plans for a large-scale medical marijuana cultivation operation in 2015. Shortly after the operation was up and running, the Mendocino Sheriff’s Office conducted a raid on the property, removing nearly 100 pounds of dried flower and hundreds of plants.

In 2016, the Tribe filed a claim against the county alleging unreasonable search and seizure, trespassing, and violations of the Tribe’s due process. Also in 2016, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department raided the Hopland Band of Pomo Indians, removing more than 800 plants from their property. They filed a lawsuit against the sheriff’s office earlier this year requesting $25,000 in damages.

In Southern California, the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel is seeing better success after converting a former casino into a 35,000-square-foot cultivation facility.

In 2015, tribal leaders began to slowly craft marijuana regulations for the reservation. The Santa Isabel Regulatory Agency and Cannabis Commission oversee the tribe’s cannabis venture. Their high-tech facility includes a testing lab, greenhouses, and space to expand into processing.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department released a statement saying the agency was not responsible for enforcing laws within the Iipay Nation and the San Diego District Attorney’s Office told the San Diego Union-Tribune in May that the tribe has been advised it would intervene only if state laws are broken within their jurisdiction. writers Suzy Nguyen and Lesley Nickus contributed to this report.

Photo courtesy of Tomás Del Coro

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  1. Paul R. Jones on

    This article is an astonishing piece of a deplorable lack of journalist curiosity regarding U.S./State citizens with “Indian ancestry/race” since The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924! That single Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, made null all previous common law-state and federal-including Presidential Executive Orders, Commerce Clause and Treaty Clause alleged Indian Treaties (if any U.S. Senate confirmed Indian treaties actually existed pre-1924 Citizenship) regarding U.S./State citizens with “Indian ancestry/race” so often touted by politicians and Indian advocates as being legitimate law.
    And yet, politicians and MSM continue to perpetuate willful blindness to the Constitutional absurdity that Congress, Presidents/Governors, Initiatives and Referendums can make distinguishable the capacities, metes and boundaries of a select group of U.S./State citizens with “Indian ancestry/race” post citizenship. There is nothing in U.S.C. Title 25-INDIANS that speaks to the Constitution’s mandate that common law must be for “We, The People, By The People and For The People’s” health, welfare, safety and benefits for a specific geographic area of a State or the Union.
    The United States Constitution makes for no provisions for:
    1. Indian sovereign nations. None of the asserted tribes possess any of the attributes of being a ‘sovereign nation:’ a. No U.S. Constitution recognition b. No international recognition c. No fixed borders d. No military e. No currency f. No postal system g. No passports h. et al
    2. Treaties with its own constituency
    3. Indian reservations whereby a select group of U.S./State citizens with “Indian ancestry/race” reside exclusively and to the exclusion of all others, on land-with rare exception-that is owned by the People of the United States according to federal documents readily available on-line that notes rights of renters as ‘occupancy and use’ by these distinguished U.S./State citizens with “Indian ancestry/race” only with the land owned by the People of the United States.
    4. Recognition of ‘Indian citizenship’ asserted by various tribes. There is no international/U.S. Constitution recognition of “Indian citizenship” as there is no ‘nation-state’ from which citizenship is derived.
    A simple question for politicians and MSM to answer…a question so simple, it is hard:
    “Where is the proclamation ratified by the voters of the United States that amends the Constitution to make the health, welfare, safety and benefits of a select group of U.S./State citizens distinguishable because of their “Indian ancestry/race?”

    • Simple answer to a simple question: a Constitutional amendment is not necessary to recognize citizens of sovereign states. Tribal Members hold citizen status in two (or more) sovereign states. Tribal Members can live outside of the tribal lands and still be tribal members. Just like a foreign citizen can have dual citizenship, e.g. Canadian/US dual citizenship.

      The Constitution is pre-dated by treaties and other laws that recognize tribes as sovereign. Tribes are defined as ‘domestic dependent nations’. A Tribe is a Nation under Federal law. A Nation is a form of sovereign state.

      1) defined territory
      2) permanent population
      3) government
      4) ability to enter into relations with other (sovereign) states

      Try not to confuse tribes with tribal members. Tribal members belonged to a sovereign state (the tribe) before the US was formed. The US granting them citizenship gave them additional rights and protections but they retain their rights and protections as tribal members.

      Each tribe determines its own criteria to qualify for membership. Many tribes use the Indian Census of the late 1800’s, early 1900’s, known as the Dawes Act rolls, to trace blood relationship and historical tribe association. No one can just claim ‘Indian ancestry/race’.

  2. soon after britain took conrol of australia there were 250
    individual aboriginal groups with about 250 separate
    languages.. aboriginal australians were considered
    vermin by many, hunted and shot as animals..

    today after a partial genocide and deliberate destruction
    of aboriginal culture, religious beliefs and languages,,
    including instututional abuse of aboriginal children,
    including being stolen from their mothers and families
    to be confined, forced to wear white mans clothing,
    speak english and lose their aboriginal language [etc]
    modern australian society and parliament are attempting
    to acknowledge the shocking wrongs of the past,
    and do whatever is possible to recognise aboriginality
    and aboriginal culture etc.. too little too late,
    but still, a manifestation of todays, attitudes
    to indiginous peoples realities..

    consider this non-usa example in context of usa
    attitudes on which constitutional etc precedents
    were based.. consider attitudes to black folk
    whose ancestors were slaves, bought, sold,
    used for free labour, bred and abused etc,
    to todays attitudes, including in laws
    and attitudes to slavery and so on..

    this evolving attitude by thinking folk today
    must be considered, in contemplation of
    todays indian tribes and individuals..

    constitutions are guides from the past,
    not set in stone, as amendments demonstrate..
    nor shields to hide behind for those locked
    in a wrong and misguided past..

    just observation from a non usa person..

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