Why Are American Indian Tribes Looking To Legal Weed For Economic Relief Instead Of Casinos? The plight of Native America Indians in the United States has been well documented over the years. The first form of economic relief for many struggling tribes was the legalized casino industry and the revenue generated by slot machines and other forms of real money gambling. For many American Indians, the profits gained from the operation of casinos on their land were their only means of survival.
As part of an recent report on Newsweek.com, it cited the Supreme Court case back in 1976 that determined that states cannot tax American Indians living on federal land or regulate their activities on these reservations. This unanimous decision was in response to the case brought forward by a couple who were part of the Leech Lake Indian Reservation in that questioned that questioned the legitimacy of property tax by local municipalities. What this decision ultimately led to was the formation of the multi-billion-dollar casino industry impacting American Indian Tribes across the nation.
These real money casinos have been the economic engine that has sustained the American Indian Tribes that took advantage of this ruling to open legalized gambling operations on their land. Many of these same tribes are starting to see marijuana or ‘legal weed’ as another possible revenue stream to complement the profits derived from their slot machines, blackjack tables and other forms of casino gambling. These profits are needed to sustain an Indian population that is still dealing with widespread poverty issues.
To move things forward as far as the legalization process for cannabis, the Native American Indian Tribes are once again at odds with both federal and state-level jurisdictions. The relationship between the two parties remains tenuous at best given the past and current conflicts that tend to arise. It is the government’s job at both levels to interpret the current laws as best as possible when it comes to the jurisdiction of American Indian Tribal lands. It is the tribe’s job to push for what they believe will be in the best interest of their members.
The Newsweek report notes a 2014 memorandum by the Department of Justice that stated that American Indian reservations would be subject to the same lax enforcement (of federal laws governing marijuana) as states that had legalized cannabis. In a direct quote from this memo, “Consistent with the Attorney General’s 2010 Indian County Initiative, in evaluating marijuana enforcement activities in Indian Country, each United States Attorney should consult with the affected tribes on a government-to-government basis.”
This stance has led to genuine optimism that legal weed can become a reality for tribal leaders looking to get into the business. One entrepreneur leading the charge is former New Mexico Secretary of Human Services Duke Rodriguez. In 2016, he founded Ultra Health which is a company specializing in operating cannabis dispensaries for medical use as well as the cultivation and growth of these type of facilities for future applications. He was quoted in this report as saying, “If you already understand issues of sovereignty and self-determination you understand that it’s (legal weed) a powerful tool for the tribes.”