Don't Bogart That Roach

Feds To Tribes: Don’t Bogart That Roach, Roll Some More

At the same time that the federal government is trying to drive Native American tribes out of the payday lending business, it is encouraging them to get into the pot business. As long as the file those Cheech & Chong SARs that were created out of whole cloth.

Indian tribes can grow and sell marijuana on their lands as long as they follow the same federal conditions laid out for states that have legalized the drug, the U.S. Justice Department said Thursday.


Oregon U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall said that the Justice Department policy addresses questions raised by tribes about how legalization of pot in states like Oregon, Washington and Colorado would apply to Indian lands.

“That’s been the primary message tribes are getting to us as U.S. attorneys,” Marshall said from Portland. “What will the U.S. as federal partners do to assist tribes in protecting our children and families, our tribal businesses, our tribal housing? How will you help us combat marijuana abuse in Indian Country when states are no longer there to partner with us?”

How will we help you combat marijuana abuse? By telling you that it’s OK to grow it? Makes sense to me.

Here’s the rub: most tribes don’t want anything to do with it.

But many in Indian Country are wary of compounding existing drug and alcohol problems by growing and selling pot.

The Yakama Nation in Washington state recently banned marijuana on the reservation and is trying to halt state regulated pot sales and grows on lands off the reservation where it still holds hunting and fishing rights. The Hoopa Valley Tribe in Northern California has battled illegal pot plantations on its reservation that have damaged the environment.

In South Dakota, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council this year rejected a proposal to allow marijuana.

Oglala Sioux tribal Councilwoman Ellen Fills the Pipe, chairwoman of the council’s Law and Order Committee, said Thursday she needs to review the federal policy more thoroughly but that given her long background in law enforcement, she opposes loosening marijuana laws.

“For me, it’s a drug,” Fills the Pipe said. “My gut feeling is we’re most likely going to shoot it down.”

In Oregon, former Klamath Tribes chairman Jeff Mitchell said communities everywhere deal with drug and alcohol issues, and tribes are likely to proceed carefully.

“I have confidence in tribal government that they will deal with it appropriately and they’ll take into consideration social and legal aspects, as well as other implications that go along with bringing something like that into a community,” Mitchell said.

Obviously, the tribes have more common sense than the feds, and much more than a majority of voters in states that want to jump on board the cannabis gravy train and ride it ’til it derails in a cloud of smoke.

Moreover, as US Attorney Mitchell helpfully observes, the activities of the tribes in this respect would violate federal criminal laws. Which is why, other than for a few outliers, the banking industry in states like Colorado and Washington, continues to refuse to have anything to do with the marijuana business.

Maybe between casino gambling and pot, the tribes ultimately will have revenge on the people who took their land and put them on reservations, further weakening an already deracinated popular “culture” that seems, in many respects, to be revolving quickly, in an increasingly tight concentric circle, around the drain hole of history.

Wouldn’t that be ironic?

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