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Obama To Native Americans: Marijuana Legalization Is OK


obama medical marijuana enforcementBy Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director

In a completely unexpected move by the Obama Administration, the US Department of Justice released a memo on October 28 indicating to Native American tribes that they can engage in cannabis commerce-cultivation, processing and retail sales-as long as they comport with the existing eight rules put forward in a previous August 2013 Obama Administration memo allowing states the autonomy to develop cannabis-based businesses in states where voters have passed binding ballot initiatives or elected policymakers have passed reform legislation.

  • Distribution of marijuana to minors
  • Revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels
  • Diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal to states where it remains illegal
  • State-authorized marijuana activity being used as a cover for trafficking other illegal drugs or activity
  • Violence or the use of firearms as part of cultivation and distribution of marijuana
  • Drugged driving or the exacerbation of other negative health consequences associated with marijuana use
  • Growing marijuana on public lands
  • Marijuana possession or use on federal property

US News writes that “there are 326 federally recognized American Indian reservations, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Many reservations are in states that don’t allow marijuana for medical or recreational use, such as Oklahoma, Utah and the Dakotas. Others are located near major East Coast cities and far from legal pot stores in the West.

“The tribes have the sovereign right to set the code on their reservations,” U.S. attorney for North Dakota Timothy Purdon, chairman of the Attorney General’s Subcommittee on Native American Issues, told the Times.

In a statement, the Department of Justice said U.S. attorneys will review tribal marijuana policies on a case-by-case basis and that prosecutors retain the right to enforce federal law.

“Each U.S. attorney will assess the threats and circumstances in his or her district, and consult closely with tribal partners and the Justice Department when significant issues or enforcement decisions arise in this area,” the statement says. 

Read the DOJ memo allowing Native American tribes to regulate cannabis-related businesses here.

A detailed map of Native American tribes is found here.

Source: NORMLmake a donation


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Johnny Green


  1. There are 566 federally recognized tribes and a number of others (50) that are State recognized…so the initial numbers cited were in error….

  2. Republicans: It’s all Obama’s fault.
    Democrats: It’s all Bush’s fault.
    Democrats and Republicans: It’s all Russia and Putin’s fault.

  3. I am a proud Native woman, and I think it’s time for “somebody” to step in and tell our ppl that legalizing may be the way to go at this point. Sovereign, our “Rez” isn’t Sovereign, our own Tribal Government is robbing us. Per Cap what’s that? My father fought in Vietnam a Proud Ojibwe man. He was a Sea Bee in the Navy, truly went through hell and back! I grew up watching him battle his demons using alcohol until I was 4, and he couldn’t take the flash backs anymore. He began to use marijuana, and I can tell you, I’m glad I grew up in a cloud of his smoke than watching a scared man hiding under the damn table everytime he flashed back. All I say is bring it on!! They’re so worried about the stigma of it being a drug, well I’ve watched many young ppl here O.D. on med’s, but the weirdest thing, I have yet to see any one O.D. on Marijuana!! Bring it on, and show our ppl how it’s done and then we’ll show YOU the money!!!

  4. … and IF there is ANYONE who distrusts our government more than its own citizens, it’s the Native American community — and I can’t blame them. Our government believes in control through a void in freedom of choice.

  5. Ignorance or the inability to understand freedom of choice creates a fear in their mind. All these people need to do is internalize and practice “Live and let live…”

  6. Our government should have a “hands-off” policy when discussing what happens on a Native American nation’s turf. After all —- that’s what “sovereign nation” means.

  7. Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi – deeply red states. Will the locals punish the tribes as usual, or will there be a truce and a sharing of the friendly weed?

  8. They’re quite different on many things. Gay rights. Women’s rights. War… Willard had a bunch of neo-cons ready to invade Iran. Wanted to raise defense spending to 4% of GDP… I could go on and on. Lots of differences.

  9. The justice department just got DEFUNDED from busting any dispensaries that adhere to state laws and don’t break the “Forbidden 8 rules”…

  10. Unless a directive comes from the top and actually results in a change to the law, it’s meaningless.
    These “nice little Presidential memos” make for good TV news clips, but they’re worthless in the real world unless the actual law in changed.

  11. Yes, when it comes to healthcare. The Affordable Care Act is fashioned after the program Mitt created when he was in office.

  12. Great news for them, I fail to see why the rest of the people in the states deserves any kind of punishment, so when will they remove the obscene laws against the cannabis community and the constitution from the law books in all states?
    Why do the common like to look at the cannabis community as pariahs?

  13. Mitt might cave in and see it as a good opportunity. You never know. He is not all too different from Obama in practice.

  14. Mitt would find a way to sell shares in Indian Marijuana Futures, Inc then pay almost no taxes on his enormous profits.

  15. stellarvoyager on

    Why doesn’t Obama just deschedule marijuana and achieve the same result, only better? Understandably, most Native American tribes do not trust the federal government, and this “memo” in no way legalizes marijuana, so they are rightfully suspicious.

  16. Great, another memo. It doesn’t really mean anything coming from this administration. The justice department follows the law, not memos. This has happened before. Until it’s a law it’s just a suggestion.

  17. I can understand the passion of people who want to end prohibition, but not that of people who want to continue it.

    Everyone should look at the website of LEAP – Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.They are current and former members of Law Enforcement, DEA, FBI, Customs, Prosecutors, Judges, and the former heads of the DEA’s of other countries and people like MI5 (the Brits FBI)Starting many years ago, they realized that the “War on Drugs” was actually Prohibition all over again with all of the same problems that it had the first time, and they speak from experiences that only people who have been in Law Enforcement and seen the harm its misuse can do to society can.

    They deserve the appreciation of all Americans for taking a brave stand on the biggest moral issue of our time, long before it was fashionable.

    Throughout America, police departments have a policy of not invading or arresting middle class Marijuana users. Now is the time to first extend that practice to Americans of all income levels, and most importantly, to end Prohibition once and for all.


    My particular passion is for Cancer patients. I’ve seen too many people die of Cancer, and dying of Cancer sucks — ask anyone doing it.

    The white house comment line is (202) 456-1111 and you can email the President at whitehouse.gov by going to their website and clicking on “contact us”

    You can find your Senator and Representatives on the web and they have phone numbers and email as well.

    Email them. Call them/.
    Then call the NYT, WP, every other major newspaper, and every news network.

    Tell them — Cancer patients can’t wait.

    Every minute an American dies of Cancer.

    And its a horrible way to die!

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