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Joyce, Mast point to bigger problems than cannabis law enforcement on tribal lands

From The Ripon Advance EDITORIAL October 11 2022

Following an Oct. 6 executive order from President Joe Biden to pardon people convicted of marijuana possession, U.S. Reps. Dave Joyce (R-OH) and Brian Mast (R-FL) urged the president to also address the enforcement of federal cannabis laws on tribal lands.

“We request that you use your authority to keep the Bureau of Indian Affairs and related agencies, such as the National Indian Gaming Commission, focused on more pressing public safety and justice needs, including Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and human trafficking, and require such agencies to respect tribal sovereignty moving forward,” the lawmakers wrote in an Oct. 7 letter sent to the president. 

As Republican co-chairmen of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, Rep. Joyce and Rep. Mast pointed out in their letter that legal, thriving cannabis programs are economic engines for tribes, and enforcing federal cannabis laws on tribal land is discriminatory.

“These misguided enforcement actions have sent a chill through Indian Country,” they wrote. “Tribes are unsure if the federal government will continue to enforce and prioritize federal cannabis laws only on reservations.”

Rep. Joyce also said that “enforcing federal cannabis laws on tribal land, especially in cases where the tribe and the state have legalized cannabis use, is wrong and it needs to stop.”

“Tribes are sovereign nations, and they have just as much of a right to enact and enforce their own laws as states do,” said Rep. Joyce. “I urge the president to take action to prevent the misguided prioritization and unjust enforcement of federal marijuana laws only on reservations.”

Rep. Mast agreed, adding that the president’s executive order shows a willingness to let states set cannabis policy. “So the president should keep with that trend and focus on bigger problems like the violence and exploitation of indigenous communities,” he said. 

The members noted in their letter that to address the issue in Congress, they included language in the House Fiscal Year 2023 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, H.R. 8262, to prevent Interior and Justice entities from enforcing federal cannabis laws inconsistent with tribal laws. 

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