Ho-Chunk Nation Decriminalizes Cannabis On Its Land In Wisconsin, Viewed As 'An Island Of Prohibition'

Zinger Key Points
  • Ho-Chunk tribal legislature voted to decriminalize marijuana on tribal lands, as per an April 30 announcement.
  • The tribe is concentrated in The Great Lakes region and owns land in 14 counties in Wisconsin.
  • The tribe said it plans on venturing into the cannabis sector once the plant is deemed legal statewide.

Cannabis use of any kind is illegal in Wisconsin. Even in light of the Biden administration’s plan to reclassify cannabis as a Schedule III substance through the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Wisconsin Republicans are strongly against recreational use, while their proposal to legalize medical marijuana in Wisconsin was left dead in the water for this legislative session.

Yet, Kristin White Eagle, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation Tribal Legislature, continues to push for the policy change, now more than ever as Ho-Chunk tribal legislature voted to decriminalize marijuana on tribal lands, as per the April 30 announcement.

"Across the country, we have seen the benefits of cannabis," White Eagle said as reported by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "It's time to move toward an end to this prohibition."

State Senate Minority Leader Melissa Agard (D-Madison) once called Wisconsin an "island of prohibition." 

The Ho-Chunk Nation, which is concentrated in The Great Lakes region, owns land in 14 counties in Wisconsin. Its members have used cannabis for centuries.

"The Ho-Chunk Nation recognizes that marijuana and its derivatives are natural growth plants with medicinal and industrial applications," the tribe said in a statement. "Indigenous people have used marijuana and hemp for hundreds of years for a variety of purposes and the Ho-Chunk Nation acknowledges its functional purpose."

See also: Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Opens North Carolina’s First And Only Medical Marijuana Dispensary On 4/20

The tribe said it plans on venturing into the cannabis sector once the plant is deemed legal statewide. Yet, questions arise around its right to sell cannabis on federal trust reservation land as it is against federal law.

"Tribes are able today to self-determine their interests in cannabis and the complex landscape requires the navigation of local, tribal, state and federal policy," said Rob Pero, founder of the nonprofit Indigenous Cannabis Industry Association. "We see the reclassification empowering tribes to engage meaningfully throughout the supply chain, from farming to processing to retail and more, as well as to facilitate interstate nation-to-nation commerce."

Matthew Fletcher, a University of Michigan law professor and expert on tribal law weighed on the issue.

“The only way to do that would be on tribal trust land/Indian country land, and since federal law still bans cannabis, no, there's no way,” Fletcher said. “That doesn't mean tribes won't do it, but they are at the complete mercy of the whims of the federal government's decision to prosecute or not. It's no way to do business. The same is true even if the state makes it legal.”

Now read: Cannabis Sales Launch On Tribal Land In Minnesota As Rest Of State Works Out Red Tape For Legal Program

Cannabis rescheduling seems to be right around the corner. Want to understand what this means for the future of the industry? Hear directly for top executives, investors and policymakers at the 19th Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference, coming to Chicago this Oct. 8-9. Get your tickets now before prices surge by following this link.

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Posted In: CannabisGovernmentNewsRegulationsPoliticsHo-Chunk Nation Tribal LegislatureKristin White Eaglemarijuana legalizationRob PeroWisconsin cannabis
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