Picuris Pueblo bust could have implications for Oglala Lakota Nation's cannabis initiative

The Trump Justice Department overturned an Obama-era cannabis directive and killed the White House Tribal Nations Summit because Donald Trump despises Indigenous Americans after losing court cases to tribal nations who built casinos that competed with his.

In September, Bureau of Indian Affairs officers confiscated nine, yes nine, cannabis plants from a home garden on the Picuris Pueblo that was tended by a local resident who is enrolled in New Mexico's therapeutic cannabis program but is not a member of one of 23 federally recognized tribal entities in the state. He has not been charged. 
The raid has cast a shadow over cannabis as an economic development opportunity for Indigenous communities, as tribal governments at Picuris Pueblo and at least one other reservation pursue agreements with New Mexico that would allow them to open marijuana businesses. In South Dakota, the Oglala Sioux in early 2020 became the only tribe to set up a cannabis market without similar state regulations, endorsing medical and recreational use in a referendum at the Pine Ridge Reservation. Months later, a statewide vote legalized marijuana in South Dakota, with a challenge from Republican Gov. Kristi Noem’s administration now pending at the state Supreme Court. [Morgan Lee, Associated Press]
Consultants from the industry are traveling to the Oglala Lakota Nation and other tribal communities to advise on cultivation and marketing including Indigenous firebrand, Dineh Benally, who with help from a Chinese syndicate had been growing cannabis on the Navajo Nation. Despite being banned from conducting business on the Pine Ridge Benally gave a February 6, 2020 presentation to tribal members on behalf of the Palliation Collaborative. 

Since then, the Republican-glutted South Dakota Legislature has modified its stand on simple possession giving tribes further incentives to build the industry even as legal cannabis for all adults remains in legal limbo and the Isanti Dakota Oyate or Flandreau Santee Sioux Nation blazes forward with its therapeutic cannabis initiative. 

Some tribal leaders, including Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chair Harold Frazier, are frustrated with what they say is the Biden Administration’s glacial pace of health care improvement in Indian Country.

The US House has passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019 or MORE Act which removes cannabis from Schedule 1 but legalization remains in the hands of the states. The bill's lead sponsor in the Senate was now-Vice President Kamala Harris.

A 1986 amendment to federal law allows tribes to acquire off-reservation land to serve the needs of its people so the Oglala Lakota Oyate bought property on I-90 just outside Badlands National Park. 

Retail cannabis sales in New Mexico are scheduled to begin in April, 2022.

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