Native American tribes in California are considering establishing their own legal marijuana market. The idea for creating their own farms and starting their own cannabis businesses arose after it was determined that rules that require them to be licensed by the state would take away their rights to self-governance, as well as the authority over their own land.
According to tribal attorney Mark Levitan, tribes “have to give up their rights to act as governments in regard to cannabis” if they want to be a part of the legal state-run market.
California cannabis laws enacted last year gives the state full control over licensing, even though tribes are sovereign nations in the US. Tribes that want to establish cannabis businesses would be required to follow California state rules, which include a “submission to all enforcement.” Applications also include a waiver of “sovereignty immunity.”
Many Native American tribes feel that government control over cannabis laws echo the years of repression they have experienced.
One tribe group believes the state law “harkens back to the end of the 19th-century…when federal and state policies favored extermination or forced assimilation of California tribes.”
The California Native American Cannabis Association recently warned that “states may engage in commercial cannabis activities through our own inherent sovereign authority.”
In a letter last December, the group said, “the state will have no jurisdiction to enforce its cannabis laws and regulations on tribal lands” if tribes choose to step away from California’s legal cannabis market.
Paul Chavez is the former chairmen of the Bishop Paiute tribe. He says that “tribes just want to be able to do business in the state of California and elsewhere, just like anybody else.”
As things stand right now however, this would mean giving up their rights as a sovereign nation to the state of California. Tribes in the Golden State are issuing a proposal that calls for the governor to come to an agreement. It would allow tribes to participate in California’s legal cannabis market, with the state recognizing the tribes “exclusive authority” to regulate commercially grown cannabis on their lands.
While tribes wait eagerly for a settlement, reaching any kind of deal with the Legislature could take the rest of the year.