Obama to Native Americans: Marijuana Legalization Is A-OK

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director December 12, 2014

    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

    It's NORML to smoke pot

    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.

    63 responses to “Obama to Native Americans: Marijuana Legalization Is A-OK”

    1. Anonymous says:


    2. Chuck says:

      Another memo written with a #2 pencil? Where are the laws? We need laws to protect us from Them.

    3. Galileo Galilei says:

      Several years ago, a member of one of the Indian tribes tried to grow hemp on his land. A mass of armed federal agents invaded the reservation and stole his crop, on more than one occasion. You would expect the Feds to be assiduously cautious about screwing over the Native Americans yet AGAIN, but not so with the drug war zealots.

      Glad to see this happening.

      Now, where’d I put my peace pipe?

    4. Just An Observer says:

      This ruling is going to make for lots of fun! Indians already run casinos, sell fireworks that are illegal in many places and don’t forget the bargain cigarette prices from not having those state taxes on them!

      Now it’s the devil weed, coming to a reservation near you and I sure hope all those Republican states which will not legalize MJ in a million years get overrun by tokin’ and smokin’ Indian pot shops.

      There’s gonna be some real upset applecarts real soon!

    5. Ll says:

      Getting past the fact that this is another “memo law,” they’re treating people differently on the basis of race, and violating their Second Amendment rights.

      This is outrageous. End the unconstitutional Prohibition now.

    6. Miles says:

      President Obama – Salute!

      Isn’t it sad, almost unbelievable, that not long ago, a native American mother of 4 was sentenced to 10 years in prison for selling an undercover dirtbag $30 worth of weed. This happened in Nazi Oklahoma; one of the last places on the planet where I’d want to live.

    7. Voice of the Resistance says:

      Yes good!

    8. Matthew Stover says:

      I can only imagine, how busy NORML Staff has been, these past 48 hours . . .

    9. mexweed says:

      1. Not exactly trivial department: the Cole Memorandum was issued on what would have been Michael Jackson’s (yes that Michael Jackson) 55th birthday. Michael Jackson allegedly died from legal pharmaceutical drugs administered in supposed good faith by a licensed physician– in lieu of cannabis which some believe could have assisted him better or less dangerously.

      Michael Jackson expressed concern– some say to extremes– for the welfare and education of young children throughout his career, having been a prodigy himself subject to various influences and temptations. The first point on the Cole Memorandum aims to hinder “Distribution of Marijuana to Minors”. Examine this issue briefly.

      1. An estimated 800,000 mostly young Americans get addicted to nicotine $igarettes yearly (possibly over 15,000,000 a year worldwide) with an estimated prognosis of 40% chance of premature death as outcome– not to mention US Surgeon General 2014 estimate of $289-Bil. yearly cost to US economy of “$moking-related illne$$es”… what if early access to cannabis INSTEAD OF tobacco, paired with introduction to VAPORIZATION and 25-mg microdosage utensils, resulted in reducing that yearly en$lavement figure by half or more? Worth the risk that a few thousand might get “addicted” to marijuana?

      (Mind, I don’t buy the common theory that there is such a thing as “marijuana addiction” or that it matters— what addicts are addicted to is the heavily promoted and glamorized H-ot B-urning O-verdose M-onoxide do$age format– $igarette, Joint or whatever, and some passive mellowed-out feeling caused by the heat shock and mind-numbing monoxide, to self-medicate away what they really fear, namely anxiety.)

      For Indian tribes, this should be the most important opportunity in a century to root out Imperialist Imposition No. 1, alcoholism. Start setting up woodworking shops, some hands are going to get busy making Moderate Use Utensils.

    10. Anonymous says:

      Perhaps, if Peyote is a sacrament?

      Why should Cannabis be any different? maybe perhaps in a different top soil

      Or perhaps nothing at all..

      It could grow freely in any possible microclimate,like a weed starving in its mid-latitude existence? …..Yeah man!

      [Editor’s note: Indeed cannabis has long been used as a religious sacrament. Unfortunately, absent an act of Congress expressly allowing cannabis to be either legalized outright or can be used as a religious sacrament, the US Supreme Court has largely cut off any future legal challenges to a federal ban on cannabis use for religious purposes when, in the 2005 court decision ‘Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal’, the justices ruled that a schedule I drug that is already in mass use (like cannabis) can’t enjoy religious exemption protections.]

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