Pubdate: Sun, 14 Dec 2014
Source: New Haven Register (CT)
Copyright: 2014 New Haven Register
Author: Hugh McQuaid,
Note: This story has been modified from its original version. See the 
original at
Page: A4


HARTFORD - New guidance from the federal Justice Department has the 
Mohegan tribe weighing the possible economic benefits of legalizing 
recreational marijuana on its reservation land.

In a memo, the Justice Department signaled it was not interested in 
enforcing marijuana laws on nationally-recognized tribal lands, so 
long as tribes adhered to rules outlined by the feds.

The rules are aimed at preventing the sale of the drug to minors, 
preventing people from driving while high, and preventing criminals 
from benefiting from marijuana sales. They mirror guidelines the feds 
offered last year on state medical marijuana laws.

In a statement, Mohegan Tribal Council Chief of Staff Chuck Bunnell 
commended the federal memo for recognizing the sovereignty of tribal 

"On the point of marijuana as a potential economic opportunity, 
Chairman (Kevin) Brown and the Mohegan Tribal Council have been very 
clear that they are looking at numerous opportunities to diversify 
into new emerging markets and products that promise to sustain their 
government for years to come. They have been equally clear that these 
new opportunities not jeopardize the significant investments they 
have already made into a highly regulated industry. This new 
information is being reviewed in that context," Bunnell said.

But entering into the marijuana business is likely to impact 
investments made by the tribe in the gaming industry.

Under the gaming revenue compact between the tribes and the state, 
the Connecticut State Police and the tribes maintain concurrent 
criminal jurisdiction for serious crimes.

That means for crimes like selling or growing marijuana, both 
felonies under Connecticut statute, state police could still enforce 
the law under the compact.

State Rep. Stephen Dargan, co-chairman of the legislature's Public 
Safety Committee, said lawmakers would meet during the coming session 
to discuss the implications of the DOJ memo and how it impacts the 
Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes, which he called "good 
corporate neighbors."

"I think there's a wide range of people that would have to be in 
discussions if, in fact, the tribes decide to go forward with this," 
Dargan said. "With the declining revenues they are getting from 
gaming, they are looking to diversify their products, if marijuana is 
a way to do that, I don't know."

Michael Lawlor, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's criminal justice adviser, 
said the move would also see the end of other recent agreements 
between the tribes and the state.

This year, both tribes entered agreements extending the arresting 
authority of their tribal police to nontribe members. Previously, 
tribal police could only arrest members of the tribe.

"Now that the tribal police departments are full fledged police 
departments, they are obligated to enforce state laws, including the 
marijuana laws," Lawlor said. "So if anyone was going to be selling 
it or growing it there, state laws would still apply."

The prospect of legalizing marijuana comes as the Mohegans have 
started conversations designed to keep its gaming operation 
competitive in light of growing competition from casinos in nearby states.

The tribe and some lawmakers signaled last month they were interested 
in establishing another gambling facility in Connecticut. Malloy and 
legislative leaders called the idea unlikely.

"I don't see Connecticut doing it," Malloy said last month. "But 
that's, at least initially, a legislative matter to be taken up. I'm 
not playing a lead role in this."

A spokesman for the Mashantucket Pequot tribe did not immediately 
return calls for comment on this story.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom