DOJ Gives Yellow Light to Pot Shops on Indian Reservations


Jacob Sullum

It's not clear that any Indian reservations are clamoring to sell pot along with cheap smokes and chances to win at blackjack. But if they want to explore this new revenue option, that apparently is OK with the U.S. Justice Department, provided they follow the same guidelines that states with legal marijuana are expected to keep in mind.

Yesterday the Justice Department issued a memo that extends the logic of its August 2013 guidance concerning marijuana cases to Indian Country. Should any reservations decide to allow marijuana cultivation and sales, the new guidance says, U.S. attorneys should focus on cases that implicate the "federal law enforcement priorities" listed in that earlier memo, which include interstate smuggling, sales to minors, and links to criminal organizations. The implication is that if reservations establish "robust and effective regulatory systems," prosecuting growers and retailers who comply with them would not be a good use of federal resources.

At the same time, reservations that do not allow marijuana can still call upon the Justice Department to enforce that ban, even if they are located in states that have legalized the drug. According to John Walsh, the U.S. attorney for Colorado, that assurance was the main goal of the memo.