Affirming Tribal Sovereignty for Cannabis Regulation

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The National Congress of American Indians
Resolution #PHX-16-002

TITLE: Affirming Tribal Sovereignty for Cannabis Regulation

WHEREAS, we, the members of the National Congress of American Indians of the United States, invoking the divine blessing of the Creator upon our efforts and purposes, in order to preserve for ourselves and our descendants the inherent sovereign rights of our Indian nations, rights secured under Indian treaties and agreements with the United States, and all other rights and benefits to which we are entitled under the laws and Constitution of the United States, to enlighten the public toward a better understanding of the Indian people, to preserve Indian cultural values, and otherwise promote the health, safety and welfare of the Indian people, do hereby establish and submit the following resolution; and

WHEREAS, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) was established in 1944 and is the oldest and largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments; and

WHEREAS, there is a growing state-led effort to decriminalize and/or legalize and regulate marijuana under state laws. Five jurisdictions have fully legalized and regulated marijuana under their laws; and sixteen states have enacted decriminalization statutes, and twenty-four states have enacted medical marijuana statutes; and

WHEREAS, two memoranda issued by the U.S. Department of Justice, known as the Cole and Wilkinson Memoranda, stated that the Department of Justice will exercise its discretion not to prosecute cultivation and retail sales of medical or recreational marijuana, provided a robust state or tribal regulatory system is in place, unless the activity implicates other federal enforcement priority concerns; and

WHEREAS, U.S. Attorneys have been directed to consult with Tribes considering commercial marijuana activities, to consider the unique circumstances of each tribe, including whether the state in which the Tribe is located has legalized marijuana activity, and to determine whether the enforcement priorities are implicated by the proposed tribal activities, before determining whether enforcement is appropriate; and

WHEREAS, Tribes that undertake the regulation of marijuana cultivation and/or sales are advancing current federal policies promoting tribal self-determination and self-governance; and

WHEREAS, revenues from tribal cannabis cultivation and/or sales can support chronically underfunded governmental services, and the enterprises will create job opportunities for tribal members; and

WHEREAS, robust policy development and enforcement by Tribes will further strengthen governance and tribal judicial structures; and

WHEREAS, Federal legislative proposals to financially punish Tribes for operating within state law and federal guidance regarding cannabis cultivation and/or sales are highly discriminatory; and

WHEREAS, Congress should treat states and Tribes with parity regarding regulation, cultivation and/or sales of cannabis.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Congress of American Indians requests that Congress respect the sovereignty of Tribes to make independent decisions about regulation, cultivation and/or sales of cannabis products; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NCAI will oppose any legislation that limits tribal sovereignty and treats Tribes differently from states with respect to cannabis regulation, cultivation and/or sales; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that this resolution shall be the policy of NCAI until it is withdrawn or modified by subsequent resolution.


The foregoing resolution was adopted by the General Assembly at the 2016 Annual Convention of the National Congress of American Indians, held at the Phoenix Convention Center, October 9 to October 14, 2016, with a quorum present.