For decades now, American Indian tribes have benefited from a booming,
nationwide casino industry. Now, a growing number of tribes are hoping
to use a similar legal strategy to enter another controversial and highly
lucrative industry: marijuana farming.
As The Telegraph reports, the legalization of marijuana in states like Washington and Colorado
has prompted numerous American Indian tribes to look into growing and
selling marijuana as a cash crop. Interests have spiked since last December,
as well, when the Department of Justice released a memorandum that officially
recognized tribes' right to grow marijuana on tribal land—even
if that land falls in a state that still considers marijuana an illegal
"A number of seminal Supreme Court cases have established that tribes
have the right to make their own laws and be ruled by them," Anthony
Broadman, an Oregon lawyer specializing in American Indian affairs, told
The Telegraph. "It could be the next green gold rush," he added, referring
to the interest in marijuana as a tribal crop.
Many tribes are reportedly already negotiating with state authorities about
growing marijuana, hoping to strike deals similar to the ones that have
bolstered the prevalence of American Indian casinos. Since 1988, Indian
Gaming Regulatory Act has allowed American Indian tribes establish a nationwide,
$27 billion gambling and entertainment industry.
Mixed Support Among the Tribes
The surging American Indian interest in marijuana farming is perhaps best
exemplified in Native Nation Events' annual networking conference
in San Diego this year. Approximately 40% of the nation's recognized
tribes are expected to attend the conference which, this year, is being
held in conjunction with the Indian Country Cannabis Association.
Not all tribes are showing the same enthusiasm for the marijuana business,
however. The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, which represents
57 tribal governments across six states, has issued their resistance to
the movement, citing concerns that the introduction of a major marijuana
industry on tribal land will only exacerbate already concerning drug issues
in troubled tribal communities.
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