The U.S. Department of Justice policy toward recognizing marijuana legalization, previously applying to Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia, has been extended to tribal governments, according to a department memo published on Thursday.
U.S. Attorney for North Dakota Timothy Purdon, who chairs the attorney general’s subcommittee on Native American Issues, said Thursday the policy has been in effect for about a month. The policy memo is dated Oct. 28.
The memo redirects Justice Depatment priorities toward marijuana enforcement to eight areas:
– Preventing minors from accessing marijuana.
– Preventing marijuana sale proceeds from reaching criminal cartels.
– Preventing marijuana from being sold in states where it is still illegal.
– Preventing marijuana sales from being used as a cover for other illegal activity.
– Preventing gun violence related to marijuana sales.
– Preventing marijuana-intoxicated driving.
– Preventing marijuana from being grown on public lands.
– Preventing marijuana possession and use on federal property.
States, and now tribal governments, that abide by those guidelines will be allowed to legalize the growing and selling of marijuana, if approved by voters or tribes.
Purdon said the policy change came after a series of recent conversations between his office and tribal governments across the country, including those in North Dakota.
“This is a topic that has been raised with me by tribes in North Dakota over the past couple of years,” he said.
Purdon added that “those conversations have gone both ways,” with some tribes expressing concern that states could legalize marijuana on tribal land against their will and others interested in exploring how they might go about legalizing the drug.
Purdon said the policy change reflects a greater priority on the part of the federal government to deal with tribal governments “sovereign to sovereign.”
North Dakota’s U.S. attorney said he took part in the discussion that ultimately led to the new policy, and he said his priority was that “we need to make sure with this policy that we honor the idea that tribes are sovereign.”
Purdon said he has worked with tribes for years on addressing substance abuse problems on the reservations, including alcohol, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana abuse, and that he would continue to do so.
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