Pubdate: Sun, 14 Dec 2014
Source: Ada Evening News, The (OK)
Copyright: 2014 The Ada Evening News
Author: James Bright, The Express-Star
Note; James Bright is the General Manager of The Express-Star in
Chickasha, Oklahoma.


It may be awhile before Oklahomans will be able to light a joint while
playing slots.

The Department of Justice ruled Thursday that Indian tribes could grow
and sell marijuana on tribal lands, but the ramifications of this
action remain a mystery.

"We don't know if tribes can legally sell it yet," Oklahoma Bureau of
Narcotics Mark Woodward said. "We just don't know the answer."

Woodward said it would take much more discussion and possibly a
judge's ruling before the facts become less sticky when it comes to
tribes selling pot in casinos. Using and selling marijuana remains
illegal under state law.

"It would depend on which casino and the decision would be between
multiple parties including the tribal police, Bureau of Indian Affairs
and U.S. authorities," he said. "I think we will have a plan in place
to answer this hypothetical, before this really becomes an issue.

Despite Thursday's decision, marijuana will not be sold in the
Chickasaw Nation's SaltCreek casino in Pocasset or in Norman's
Riverwind casino, said the Nation's Governor Bill Anoatubby on Friday.

"Regardless of recent changes to U.S. Department of Justice policy,
the Chickasaw Nation has no desire to pursue growing or selling
marijuana," Anoatubby said. "The Chickasaw Nation plans to continue
its current policy of abiding by state marijuana laws on lands where
we have legal jurisdiction."

He said the tribe will continue to cooperate with state officials to
enforce the state's existing marijuana laws.

The DOJ decision titled, "The Cole Memorandum," was issued after
several tribes - none located in Oklahoma - asked for a decision on
whether marijuana growth and sales would be legal on recognized tribal

While the decision found that tribes nationally could agree to grow
and sell marijuana, it does make several stipulations.

Distribution to minors, revenue from marijuana sales to criminal
enterprises, the movement of marijuana from states where it is legal
and using the movement and growth of marijuana as a pretext to traffic
other drugs could all result in prosecution.

The memorandum also laid out what would be considered "Indian Country"
and the federal government's authority over such lands.

"The Justice Department is committed to dealing with tribes on a
government-to-government basis," DOJ Spokesperson Wyn Hornbuckle said
in an email interview. " This policy statement recognizes that Indian
country is incredibly diverse, and different tribes will have
different perspectives on enforcement priorities that are in the best
interest of their community's public safety."

Hornbuckle said several tribes have expressed public safety concerns
when it comes to the DOJ's ruling, including the impact on youth.

Federal law still criminalizes the growth and sale of marijuana, but
nothing in the Cole memorandum gives authority or jurisdiction to the
United States to enforce federal law in Indian Country, he said.

Despite this Anoatubby, said he does not foresee a situation which
would cause the nation to change its policy on marijuana sale and use.

James Bright is the General Manager of The Express-Star in Chickasha,
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