Groundbreaking Conference to Discuss Legalizing Marijuana in Indian Country

The, tribes of marijuana is a growing trend in discussions from Washington, D.C. to state government offices and most recently on tribal reservations. In February the subject matter will be placed front and center at a groundbreaking national conference focusing on legalization in Indian country.

The legalization of pot in Indian country came into focus as the federal government announced in 2014 that it would allow tribal nations to legalize marijuana on their reservations.

According to media reports, as of December there were only three tribes showing interest in entering the marijuana business. In a December ICTMN story, it was reported that it is always “a good thing anytime the federal government moves to let Indian nations control their own affairs.” But could marijuana legalization be too much of a good thing? This conference will hopefully help answer that question.

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Tribal leaders, executives, entrepreneurs and Native health and social work professionals, and law enforcement personnel will be on hand to examine the legal, political and social policy implications of marijuana legalization in Indian country, as many tribal governments are already addressing the subject matter. The conference will be held February 27 at the Tulalip Resort Casino in Quil Ceda Village, Washington.

Odawi Law PLLC and Harris Moure, PLLC are co-sponsoring the conference to help “leaders in Indian country fully understand the wide-ranging issues associated with embarking on the development of tribal marijuana legislation and considerations of commercial marijuana cultivation, manufacture and distribution in tribal jurisdictions,” according to a press release.

RELATED: Marijuana Legalization Must Remain Public Policy Debate

Robert Odawi Porter, conference co-sponsor and organizer, is a leading attorney in tribal sovereignty and treaty rights protections and former president of the Seneca Indian Nation where he witnessed first-hand issues surrounding the selling of another plant based product – cigarettes.

Porter has witnessed a change in social attitudes towards marijuana use which is paving the way for the significant numbers of new legislation in states across the country.

“Given recent developments, we are excited to announce this historic opportunity for tribal leaders to gain a better understanding of the implications of marijuana legalization in their territories,” Porter said. “We are bringing together some of the best, most experienced lawyers and commentators at the intersection of Indian law and marijuana law to share their experience in addressing the evolving issues surrounding recreational and medicinal marijuana usage in Indian country. Our goal is to pursue a balanced discussion of the important legal, business, social, and cultural questions that would inevitably affect Native societies were legalization to occur.”

Medicinal marijuana is legal in 33 states, and legal for persons over the age of 21 in four states. Legalized recreational use, however, is currently in two states: Washington and Colorado. The United States Department of Justice in October of last year issued a “Policy Statement Regarding Marijuana Issues in Indian Country.” Within the statement, the DOJ addressed law enforcement concerns by stating it will continue its enforcement priorities “in the event that sovereign Indian Nations seek to legalize the cultivation or use of marijuana in Indian country.”

The Tribal Marijuana Conference is also co-sponsored and co-organized with on of the foremost legal experts and premier cannabis business attorneys in the country – Hilary Bricken. The cannabis attorney provides a wealth of knowledge and experience with marijuana regulations, including testifying in front of state and federal government panels.

“There exists enormous new market potential for commercial marijuana initiatives on Native lands,” Bricken said. “This conference will extract the regulations and the legal and policy issues that are in place to assist Native leaders as they consider the myriad possibilities before they begin to embark on a path of commerce involving cannabis. This is an unparalleled opportunity for tribes to participate in a growing sector of commerce and diversify their economies, yet there is much to be considered to ensure successful implementation of tribal policy and law.”


For more details on the Tribal Marijuana Conference and registration information contact: Erica Curnutte at erica@harrismoure.comat (206) 224-5657 or rob@odawilaw.comor



Native Americans key to border security success

By Chuck Brooks, Contributor, The Hill

According to the most recent stats from the Pew Research Center, 11.7 million illegal aliens resided in the United States as of March 2012. To put that into perspective, there are 46 states that have a population less than 11.7 million. Fox News reported that from October 2013 to the end of May 2014, 162,000 people from countries other than Mexico have entered the U.S. across the southern border and 52,000 were unaccompanied children. This is approximately a 100 percent increase from the previous year and it is estimated that 150,000 minors might attempt to cross the border next year.

For this reason, illegal immigration, which has ties to drug smuggling and human trafficking, is continuing to get a lot of attention. In fact, according to Gallup, Americans recently cited immigration as the No. 1 issue in the U.S.; ahead of dissatisfaction with government, the general economy, unemployment/jobs and healthcare.

The cost of ignoring the problem and leaving our borders vulnerable is one that we cannot risk. The White House is unable to handle the growing issue and asked for $3.7 billion in emergency funding. Furthermore, thousands of troopers are being deployed to help protect our borders.While I believe that additional security funding is necessary, I also think there is a group that can help immensely and they should not be ignored: Native Americans.Gary Edwards, CEO of the National Native American Law Enforcement Association, states that there are 25 tribal reservations located on and/or across the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico and 41 tribal reservations are within 100 miles of those international U.S. borders. Since Native Americans are around a large part of our borders, they are, and should continue to be, a part of our border security initiatives.

Cooperation between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Native Americans has already played a significant role in our boarder security, especially in remote areas where drug smugglers and citizens try to enter the U.S. illegally. Today, more than 22,000 Native Americans serve in the Armed Forces and have the highest per capita serving in the military of any ethnic group protecting the homeland.

Additionally, the “Shadow Wolves” are Native American trackers who are part of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Since 1972, the Shadow Wolves have been tracking aliens and drug smugglers attempting to cross the border by looking for footprints, tire tracks, items snagged on branches, bent or broken twigs or even a single fiber of cloth. Their patrol area covers 2.8 million acres and officers estimate that recently they have seized an average of 60,000 pounds of illegal drugs a year.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the DHS need to remember the dedication, skill set and strategic geographical intelligence that Native Americans bring to the mix. In order to create a lasting relationship that utilizes their knowledge and aptitude, tribes must have complete access to intelligence and information pertinent to border security. This is something that the government needs to ensure because uninformed tribes will not be useful when protecting the homeland.

Brooks serves as vice president/client executive for DHS at Xerox. He served in government at the DHS as the first director of legislative affairs for the science & technology directorate. He also spent six years on Capitol Hill as a senior adviser to the late Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and was adjunct faculty member at Johns Hopkins University where he taught homeland security and Congress. Brooks has an M.A. in international relations from the University of Chicago and a B.A. in political science from DePauw University. He is widely published on the subjects of innovation, public/private partnerships, emerging technologies and issues of cybersecurity. He can be followed on Twitter @ChuckDBrooks.