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.

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  1. Screw pot dispensaries. If I was in charge of a reservation, I’d be building a oil refinery. Tell the EPA to fuck off and die and go ahead and start refining in the Sioux reservations in N or S Dakota. Who needs the Keystone pipeline then?

    Or build a nuke. Really sovereign nation status should make reservations be like a bunch of mini Hong Kongs in the US. With the ability to bypass the various regulatory agencies, you would think they could make some real money.

    1. The legal status of the Indian tribes really seems insane to me.

      Nominally they are sovereign, but the feds paternalistically take care of them trough the BIA.

      I think in another 100 years, tribal identity will be so destroyed that they will seem like anachronisms, like feudal lands in Scotland.

      1. Hasn’t that always been the point though? “Kill the Indian, and save the man”?

      2. I don’t know, it seems to me that the tribes have actually become more assertive in using their status as sovereign nations now than in the past.

        For example, they now issue their own license plates and sell separate hunting licenses for reservation lands. That never happened when I was a kid (I grew up next to the White Earth reservation in MN).

        The other thing about the reservations is that it sure seems like no one ever leaves. Even when the kids go off and get a college education, they seem to always go back to the res.

        I don’t see them going anywhere

        1. Even when the kids go off and get a college education, they seem to always go back to the res.

          Really?!? My impression was that they were bleeding people. Admittedly the last book I read on the subject is a little out of date.

        2. I don’t know if Florida changed the law, but I remember a few (other than my own) clunkers on the highway in Ft. Lauderdale that didn’t have license plates, just cardboard with the word “Seminole”.

    2. a bunch of mini Hong Kongs

      That would be awesome. Why don’t they do that?

      The other thing they need to do is stop being all racist and let anyone come live in their little sovereign nations. The “who’s in the tribe” fights are stupid (and mostly to do with casino revenues as far as I can tell).

  2. in another 100 years

    I think we’re already “there” in terms of it being an anachronism. “Reservations”, “BIA”….2014. Really? As Mohawk guy (ironically) said in “The Road Warrior”, “It’s over…”

  3. I thought the Feds had no jurisdiction on tribal lands.

  4. If they are supposed to be sovereign, why do they need permission from the feds? Or is it one of those things where they threaten to cut off money?

  5. Isn’t this exactly the same guidance they gave on states with legal pot?

    You remember, right before they ramped up the medpot raids?

    1. Just lookin’ for another excuse to play Troopers and Indians again.

      1. I’d prefer to smoke the Peace Pipe.

  6. Even if they managed to do this on every reservation in Montana, you still couldn’t pay me money to go to one.

    1. Yeah, interesting – that’s me, too. We have the Chippewa casinos just north of where I grew up. I also refuse to go into any “Indian” casino. I refer to them as “revenge on the white man”.

      The whole thing is sad and pathetic.

      1. Are they just shitty and depressing, or what? I’ve never been, because I have no interest in gambling or going to large, well lit, crowded places, but from what I hear the ones in Connecticut are pretty nice.

        1. I may go to Vegas again, but I have no plans to ever visit an Indian casino.

        2. The Hard Rock is pretty nice.

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