New Mexico's Tribal Nations Enter Marijuana Market, Lawmakers Urge Biden's AG To Respect Their Policies

As New Mexico heats up for the launch of recreational cannabis sales this week, two tribal communities are looking to join the burgeoning industry.

The Pueblos of Picuris and Pojoaque, two of the 23 tribal nations in the state, inked an intergovernmental agreement with the Land of Enchantment, thus making a step toward setting up their own marijuana enterprises operating within their communities, reported Marijuana Moment.

The move also allows the tribal communities to apply for state licenses for any business they would conduct outside tribal lands.  

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) emphasized that with the plant still being illegal under federal law, the two Obama-era tribal directives for how the Department of Justice prioritized prosecuting marijuana-related crimes are “very important” in the process of Pueblos entering the market.

“Our intergovernmental agreements create the kind of transparency and give direct knowledge to the feds that we intend to protect our sovereign nations, that they are actively engaged in our medical and recreational cannabis programs, that these are their rights under those agreements,” Lujan Grisham said.

While Pueblo of Pojoaque Gov. Jenelle Roybal says that cannabis will “diversify our economic development,” the state Regulatory and Licensing Department that oversees the Cannabis Control Division is expected to create a supportive regulatory environment.

However, with Congress staling on the plant’s decriminalization. Tribes might not get much protection from the state.

“I can’t prevent the Feds or the DOJ from acting any number of ways,” Lujan Grisham said. “We’re actively working on getting them to reinstate their memos, which is basically guidance telling the DOJ that the sovereign nations’ independence on these issues, related to state law, should prevail.”

More Respect For Indian Tribes’ Marijuana Policies

In the meantime, potentially positive signals on the issue are coming from Congress.

A letter sent to Attorney General Merrick Garland by a coalition of nine U.S. senators is pleading with the top legal officer to direct federal prosecutors to respect marijuana legalization policies enacted by Native American tribes, Marijuana Moment reported.

Led by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), the letter says that the Justice Department has to “respect the inherent sovereignty of Tribal governments and cease the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act on Tribal land as it pertains to the growth, possession, and use of cannabis for medicinal, agricultural, and recreational purposes, where those Tribes have legalized this activity for its own members and those acting in compliance with Tribal law.”

The letter was also signed by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tina Smith (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Cory Booker (D-NJ). It stressed that previous Obama-era DOJ guidance on prosecutorial discretion for tribal governments was rescinded by then-AG Jeff Sessions in 2018.

“This discretion rightfully recognized the inherent sovereignty of Tribal governments to regulate their own affairs,” the senators wrote, urging AG Garland to “reinstate prosecutorial discretion and allow U.S. Attorneys to deprioritize cannabis enforcement where states and Tribes have legalized cannabis.”

Photo: Courtesy of Maddy Baker on Unsplash


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Posted In: CannabisESGGovernmentNewsRegulationsPoliticsMarketsGeneralIndian communitiesJenelle RoybalMarijuana MomentMartin HeinrichMerrick GarlandMichelle Lujan GrishamNew Mexicorereational marijuanaTribes
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