Cautiously, tribes brace for cannabis businesses in New Mexico | New Mexico News
By MORGAN LEE, Associated Press
SANTA FE, NM (AP) — Two tribal communities have been reassured that they will be able to participate in the opening of the marijuana market in New Mexico in April without the threat of interference from federal law enforcement. on tribal lands, under signed agreements with state cannabis regulators. Friday.
The agreements outline plans for cooperative oversight of cannabis production and sales in the Picuris and Pojoaque pueblos, laying the groundwork for opening up the industry in Indian Country in a state with 23 federally recognized Native American tribes. . It’s unclear how many other tribes might get involved amid mixed feelings about legalization.
There has been uncertainty about America’s drug enforcement priorities after the crackdowns on reservations. Officials raided a home marijuana garden in Picuris Pueblo in northern New Mexico in September 2021, months after legalization took effect.
Across the United States, tribal businesses have taken various approaches overlapping state and federal laws, as well as jurisdictional issues, to gain a foothold in the cannabis industry.
In Washington, the Suquamish Tribe carved out a pioneering role in a 2015 pact with the state to open a retail marijuana outlet in Puget Sound from Seattle on the Port Madison Reservation. She sells cannabis from dozens of independent growers.
Several tribes in Nevada operate their own law enforcement division to help ensure compliance with state and tribal authorized marijuana programs, including a registry of locally grown medical marijuana. Taxes collected at tribal dispensaries stay with the tribes and go to community betterment programs.
In New Mexico, widespread recreational marijuana sales are set to begin April 1 to adults 21 and older under legislation signed a year ago by Democratic New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. Lawmakers hope to spur new jobs and reverse the damage disproportionately inflicted on racial and ethnic minorities by past drug criminalization.
In a statement, Picuris Governor Craig Cuanchello described Friday’s agreement with the state as a “collaborative effort to maintain a strong regulatory environment for cannabis,” also describing “an exciting new opportunity to diversify our economic development”.
“Revenues from a Pueblo cannabis business will support tribal government programs and the surrounding community,” he said in the statement.
Excise tax provisions on cannabis sales on tribal lands were unclear and could be the subject of separate agreements. New Mexico plans to levy an initial 12% tax on recreational cannabis sales in addition to standard sales taxes.
The new pact recognizes that the US Controlled Substances Act continues to criminalize marijuana, while underscoring a commitment to a local regulatory system that prevents youth access to marijuana, impaired driving, financial support to criminal networks, adverse health effects or interstate cannabis trafficking.
Tribes will maintain their own cannabis regulations in close consultation with the state — though state rules apply to cannabis testing, packaging, and labeling.
In 2018, federal law enforcement uprooted approximately 35 cannabis plants grown by the Picuris Pueblo during an incursion into medical marijuana cultivation. New Mexico allowed sales of medical marijuana beginning in 2007.
Tribal businesses in Picuris Pueblo, a remote community of less than 300 residents, include a new gas station and mini grocery store. Pojoque Pueblo, by comparison, has strong business assets that include a golf course and a large hotel and convention center, which doubled as a pandemic isolation unit for Indian Country during the onset of COVID-19.
The marijuana raid by the Bureau of Indian Affairs last year confiscated nine cannabis plants from a home garden in Picuris Pueblo that was tended by Charles Farden, a resident since childhood, who is not Native American.
The 54-year-old is enrolled in the state’s medical marijuana program to relieve post-traumatic stress and anxiety and New Mexico allows up to a dozen locally grown marijuana plants per household for use staff.
Contacted on Friday, Farden said the raid further aggravates his anxiety and depression, and also makes it more difficult to purchase medical cannabis.
“I haven’t even really slept a full night since it happened,” he said.
Officials from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and its parent agency, the Home Office, have repeatedly declined to comment on the raid and its implications.
In late 2020, a combination of state, federal, and tribal law enforcement cooperated in a raid on sprawling marijuana farms with makeshift greenhouses in northwest New Mexico, with the consent of the nation’s president. Navajo. Authorities seized more than 200,000 plants.
At the time, New Mexico limited marijuana cultivation to 1,750 plants per licensed medical cannabis grower. The limit is now 25,000 plants.
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