Monday, December 15, 2014

Perhaps you may be toking it up at your local casino one day - or perhaps not

We often forget the special status of Indian reservations in this country. Indian tribal land is sovereign land, not necessarily subject to laws of the state(s) in which the land is located.

Another reminder of this came from the U.S. Justice Department, and it concerned the topic of marijuana legalization.

The U.S. Justice Department is giving Native American tribes authority to legalize marijuana on their reservations, telling federal prosecutors the issue needs to be handled on a "government-to-government basis."...

The guidelines are the latest signal from the Obama administration that it respects the sovereign status of Indian tribes, said Stephen Pevar, an instructor on American Indian law at New York University Law School and author of the book "The Rights of Indians and Tribes."

"It's not pro-marijuana or anti-marijuana," Pevar said Thursday. "It's pro-sovereignty."

Why am I writing about this in the Empoprise-IE Inland Empire blog? Because, as the Desert Sun notes, there are 12 reservations in Riverside County. Add the ones in San Bernardino County and surrounding counties, and there is a potential change that could affect many marijuana lovers.

For example, if an Indian reservation decided to legalize marijuana - including in the casinos on tribal land - then Californians could simply go to a casino whenever they wanted to toke up, without fear of legal penalties.

But before the tokers who read my blog go "KEWL," remember that sovereignty works the other way also. What if California completely legalizes marijuana (not just medical marijuana), but the Indian reservations ban it? And there's certainly a precedent - until 2013, Pine Ridge Reservation banned alcohol, despite the fact that it was legal in South Dakota.

So don't count on the Morongo Casino to offer tacos, tequila, and toking just yet.

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