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Feds: Tribes Can Grow And Sell Marijuana On Tribal Lands


indian reservation marijuanaI will never forget the first time I heard the story of the Oglala Sioux Nation’s efforts to grow hemp. The Oglala Sioux tribe is a recognized sovereign nation by the United States government, yet the feds prevented the Oglala Sioux people from growing hemp. I remember tearing up when I heard Alex White Plume speak about how the feds came and essentially stole the tribes hemp harvest at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. It was a harvest that the tribe was relying upon as a cash crop, and without it they suffered many economic hardships.

Zoom forward to today, where a historic position was taken by the United States government. Per the Los Angeles Times:

Opening the door for what could be a lucrative and controversial new industry on some Native American reservations, the Justice Department on Thursday will tell U.S. attorneys to not prevent tribes from growing or selling marijuana on the sovereign lands, even in states that ban the practice.

The new guidance, released in a memorandum, will be implemented on a case-by-case basis and tribes must still follow federal guidelines, said Timothy Purdon, the U.S. attorney for North Dakota and the chairman of the Attorney General’s Subcommittee on Native American Issues.

This of course is not true legalization, as it’s just guidance from the federal government via a memo, which can change at any moment without notice. This isn’t the first time this administration released a memo in regards to loosening marijuana enforcement, and that didn’t prove to be as sincere as people first thought. However, today’s news is still significant nonetheless. How many tribes will take advantage of the new policy is unclear, but it could potentially lead to legal marijuana being grown and sold within state borders that many thought (myself included) would never allow legal marijuana. Yes, technically a state like South Dakota is not a nation, it’s a state, and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is separate, but it would still involve legal marijuana within the borders of South Dakota should the Oglala Sioux people proceed to growing marijuana.

From reports I’ve read, Indian tribes were responsible for lobbying for the new policy. There was a lot of confusion when the news broke, with many activists scrambling to see who was working on it. I’m glad that Native Americans took the lead on this issue, and that it got results. I have to assume that just because marijuana is grown and sold on a reservation, it doesn’t mean that the marijuana will be allowed off the tribal land. So if/when sales begin, be aware of this fact. I am now dreaming of the day when I can go to the Grande Ronde casino near where I live, buy some legal marijuana, and enjoy a concert or two.


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Johnny Green


  1. Robert Schwartz on

    So your saying in Florida where its still illegal to grow and buy MM, Its now legal to on Seminole land…?

  2. We Should Allow To Sell weed On Our Land Haha….it Would Be Alot Of Help For Us To Do This… Because Every One i Know Smoke and sell Weed Even If It Is Illegal To Do So…
    Hoka Hey…

  3. Not everyone is on board
    Acting council woman
    MRS Fillthepipe says
    “Not on our lands”
    No joke here

  4. Why is it then that millions of “renters”, make monthly housing payments to an apartment management company, but at the end of each year find they receive nothing to help defray their housing costs.. Whereas “home owners” (who are, in reality nothing more than renters until their mortgage loans are paid off) receive generous government tax write-off’s to help defray their annual housing costs? As renter’s approach parity with home owner’s across America, the ‘preferred segment” (as you call them) will of course continue having their annual housing costs subsidized and defrayed by those comprising the other half, who don’t make their monthly housing payments to financial institutions.

  5. Pain Kills (if you read this), do you remember several months ago you and I had a discussion on reform in NM and a Sioux reader jumped us because you and I suggested legalization on reservations. Well maybe the idea will come to fruition and our friend will open the first weed shop on Pine Ridge and make a bundle of money. To our friend (I’ve forgotten the name you gave), hope all Native Americans have the best of success with the project.

  6. Whenever you treat one segment of the population differently than another, yes it is preferred segment. Either the rule of law applies to all or applies to none. You can’t have it both ways.

  7. Visited an Indian reservation lately ? One without a casino ? Drive through Washingtonians Colville Indian Reservation, home of the Nez Perce. I don’t believe you’ll come away from the experience thinking they are from the “preferred segment”.

  8. mark_lee481 BSHA on

    I agree with you. Please, take the issue up with your council of elders. Unless this has dissolved they are the ones to decide.

  9. mark_lee481 BSHA on

    Do not get worked up, this will give all states a legal avenue. Not even white police are allowed on reservation land. The council must decide to cooperate and turn an accused criminal over, and until they decide tribal police allow them to live free. It is their nation within our nation.

  10. mark_lee481 BSHA on

    Me thinks if you have a nearby Native Seminole casino, you could go there and enjoy joints and slots. They have hotels too, how better to serve guests!!! The council must be notified of this change and what was commonly done in a closed council lodge (hopefully this has not changed) is they will consider the proposition. If you do this, be as respectful as if you were speaking to the Pope. Or a great general, like Eisenhower or Patton.

  11. mark_lee481 BSHA on

    Well Johnny, unless this is a repost, we have a lot more in common than I thought. I spent the summer of 1977 with an Oglala friend (they often worked ranches as far south as Wood Lake Nebraska, this is the area we bought cattle and stayed on the ranch) and after my experiences I had a paper in sociology published. Remember, my friends, casinos are on Native Land. What stops cannabis to be sold by the joint on these locations? Yes, it would begin a foothold in backward thinking states that would lead to legalization. I would be happy to grow for those without indoor grow experience and I would take any host off the grid. Why would I live on a reservation? I loved my time a fair drive from Pine Ridge. I stayed closer to Wounded Knee which still stands, bullet holes and all. I was not treated any differently as I have exactly the same spiritual beliefs. At that age I was also told the Earth god mescal (Peyote) favored me as I know they John Lennoned me (I consumed quite a bit at the direction of the visiting Crow representatives), who is this white boy let’s see if he is a man type thing. It was quite different from the LSD I was accustomed to, and no one would ever ask what inspires the patterns on the blankets and rugs in the southwest EVER AGAIN. I also was invited to take a sweat lodge journey which was surprising, I did hate the “cleansing” that preceded it as you could have shined a light up my butt and I could have played a lighthouse! That aside, I may contact the Winnebago Sioux in Iowa and see if we could bring this to reality, sometimes steps like these are the only way to fight a war.

  12. I am confused, by this action, did the Feds just say there is nothing wrong with cannabis.
    Did they just,,,, kinda, sorta, de-schedule it. If so, I thank you from Florida.
    Our A G is putting on her makeup and cursing at the same time.
    I remain confused

  13. Awesome. You have to love it when the government gets to pick and choose which segments get to profit while crushing the rest of us who don’t fall in the preferred segment.

  14. Being a member of Grand Ronde, I would hope the Tribe would take a serious look at diversifying our portfolio and not rely so much on casino profits. This could turn out to be a huge opportunity to get ahead of the curve.

  15. Will states, that have no softening of prohibition stances, attempt to crush the tribes that move forward with this memo? Will we see the feds fight for said tribes if state officials do disregard this exception?
    This could shake out to be even more important than states legalizing on their own. It might mean the feds by default are in support of legalization. I know that is a stretch, but one can dream can’t they?

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