Tribal lands are not safe from federal government raids on their marijuana facilities despite being sovereign nations. A number of tribes around the country have attempted to setup facilities to grow marijuana, manufacture cannabis oil and eventually setup cafe-like shops to capitalize on the cannabis movement. Do you think the federal government should leave tribal sovereign lands alone?
Native Americans could hold the key to cashing in on the cannabis green rush. As sovereign nations, Native American tribes may be able to open and operate tax-free cannabis businesses. This could be a huge economic opportunity for tribes. It could also be an effective way to work around the hefty taxes already plaguing the legal weed industry.
In theory, Native Americans should be able to run cannabis businesses on their own land, even in states where weed is not legal. And they should be tax-free. Back in 2014, the Justice Department issued an important ruling. It stopped U.S. attorneys from going after tribes that grow and sell weed on reservation land.
This decision was similar to the 1987 California v. Cabazon ruling. In that one, the Supreme Court said that Native American tribes could run casinos on their land. It also said that states could not interfere with those gaming operations. But that’s not the only thing that ruling did. It also had a lot to do with taxes. Native American tribes are not subject to federal taxes. So are any corporations owned by tribes. With that said, individual Native Americans are still required to pay regular income tax. So although tribally-owned corporations are not taxed, the wages earned by individual Native Americans are taxed.
Yet despite all this, there is a lot of uncertainty. In fact, early efforts by Native Americans to create cannabis businesses have not gone well. In 2015, the Pinoleville Pomo Nation’s medical cannabis grow was raided. Authorities destroyed nearly 400 plants. They also busted up a high-tech cannabis oil extraction lab.
Similarly, the Santee Sioux tribe’s plans to open a cannabis resort never came to life. Instead, they stopped their plans in 2015 after federal officials threatened a raid. On top of that, consultants working with the tribe were arrested on drug charges.
Finally, Trump’s administration is making things even more uncertain. The original ruling that states could not interfere with Native Americans growing weed came under Obama. But things are different now. The Trump administration is becoming more and more unfriendly toward cannabis.
Earlier this year, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that “greater enforcement” of federal weed laws was coming. Then, Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke out against cannabis. He said weed is “only slightly less awful” than heroin. Additionally, he said that medical cannabis “had been hyped, maybe too much.”