Nevada State Senator Tick Segerblom has introduced SB 375, a bill that would authorize “agreements between the Governor and Indian tribes in this State relating to the regulation of the use of marijuana.”
And a lot of tribal leaders are showing interest, many making the trip to the state legislature last week to make their voices heard. “The tribes would oversee what is happening on their reservation, but when they participate in the system they would have to follow the state rules,” Segerblom said.
Like most Native American reservations around the U.S., those in Nevada suffer from chronic poverty and unemployment. Many tribal leaders see legal cannabis as a great opportunity to create jobs.
Since a 2014 Department of Justice announcement that seemed to allow tribes leeway in legalizing and regulating marijuana, attempts to do just that have not gone well. But for many tribes, there is no other option. They need marijuana legalization to work on their lands.
“We lack a tribal court system, we lack a police department, we lack health services – this may help create those services,” said David Decker, Chairman of the Elko Band Council for the Te-Moak Tribe of the Western Shoshone, when he testified before the State Senate Judiciary Committee. “Just to pay for dispatch, this is very expensive. This could help us pay for all those economic securities that we currently can’t provide.”
In light of the history between authorities in the U.S. and Native American tribes, it seems like a small concession to allow tribes to grow and sell marijuana and generate some economic activity on their lands…those that remain, at least. Given the uncertainty surrounding the marijuana industry, tribes are taking quite a risk to go on this path. Hopefully politicians in Nevada will give them the tools they need to get an industry off the ground.
“They are sticking their necks out on this one, but at some point you have to say, ‘We can’t sit around and twiddle our thumbs,'” Sen. Segerblom said. “I think the tribes – because they’re sovereign nations – they will have a better leg to stand on [if they are challenged by the feds].”
In the end, of course, marijuana should be legal on all lands. And if adult use marijuana is legal in Nevada – which it is – there is no reason to keep Native American tribes from participating and benefitting from that fact.