Senate committee to hold meeting on marijuana issues with Indian tribes next week

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A Senate committee has scheduled a meeting for next week that will focus on marijuana issues in Indian communities.

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee, chaired by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), has released a notice of the listening session, titled “Cannabis in Indian Country,” which is scheduled to take place June 17.

The to remark, published on Friday, does not include specific details about what kind of ground the discussion covers, but Schatz’s communications director told Marijuana Moment it was an opportunity for tribes to share their thoughts on cannabis issues. with Senate staff. The session is not considered a formal hearing, and therefore it is not expected that the senators themselves will necessarily be present.

Nonetheless, it stands to reason that the issue of tribal sovereignty to enact marijuana policy changes without interference from the federal government would be a key area of ​​interest for stakeholders at the meeting.

In March, a coalition of nine U.S. senators sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland urging him to order federal prosecutors not to interfere with marijuana legalization policies adopted by Native American tribes.

The letter requested that the Justice Department “respect the inherent sovereignty of tribal governments and cease enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act on tribal lands with respect to the cultivation, possession, and use of cannabis to medicinal, agricultural and recreational purposes, where these tribes have legalized this activity for its own members and those acting in accordance with tribal law.

There were earlier Obama-era DOJ guidelines on prosecutorial discretion for tribal governments that chose to legalize cannabis. But that directive, known as the Wilkinson Memo, was overturned by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 2018, along with a separate memo urging prosecutors not to prosecute states that established markets. regulated cannabis.

The senators urged the attorney general to “restore prosecutorial discretion and allow U.S. prosecutors to prioritize cannabis enforcement where states and tribes have legalized cannabis.”

Although the tribe-specific DOJ guidelines have been overruled, the federal government has generally taken a hands-off approach to marijuana law enforcement in states that have chosen to legalize the plant. Last year, however, a federal agency raided a small home cannabis garden of a medical cannabis patient living in the Indian Territory of New Mexico.

The Pueblo de Picuris governor told Marijuana Moment at the time that he felt the raid amounted to a federal double standard, and the tribal government has sought answers from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), which reports to the Interior Department.

Last month, the Pueblos of Pojoaque and Picuris signed an intergovernmental cooperation agreement with the government of New Mexico that allows tribes to impose their own tax on cannabis products sold within their tribal jurisdictions.

“New Mexico has a long history of working with tribes to effectively administer taxes while recognizing tribal sovereignty and the limits of state authority over tribal lands,” said the Secretary of Taxation and to the income of New Mexico, Stephanie Schardin Clarke. said in a press release. “This administration is committed to strengthening relationships with tribal governments.”

Pojoaque Governor Jenelle Roybal said the tribe is “very pleased to enter into this cannabis tax agreement and to continue and expand our cooperative efforts with the State of New Mexico regarding the coordination and intergovernmental tax administration”.

Other states like Washington the same way To allow Indigenous tribes are entering into intergovernmental agreements that would allow Indian territories to adopt their own cannabis regulations, penalties and tax policies.

Last year, a bipartisan group of congressional lawmakers called on House leaders to include provisions broadly protecting states and tribes that have legalized marijuana from federal interference in final drug spending legislation. fiscal year 2022. It didn’t work out though.

Amendments to these provisions have been made for the House Rules Committee to vote on the floor in July for the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) funding package, but this spending legislation does not was never addressed on the ground as a result of disputes over other unrelated enforcement provisions.

Cannabis language has also been proposed in previous sessions, passing the House in 2020 and 2019. But it was not attached to the final appropriations legislation sent to the president’s office.

In addition, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved hemp regulatory plans submitted by dozens of tribes across the country since cultivation was legalized by the federal government under the 2018 Farm Bill.

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