Pubdate: Sat, 21 Feb 2015
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)
Copyright: 2015 Journal Sentinel Inc.
Author: Cary Spivak


Menominee Legislator Says Research Must Be Done First

Now that the Menominee tribe's dream of opening a Kenosha casino has 
gone up in smoke, the tribe is looking for a new way to raise cash - 
growing marijuana.

Craig Corn, a tribal legislator, opened the door Friday to growing 
marijuana on the reservation near Shawano. In a tweet Corn sent out 
Friday, the former tribal chairman said: "Now we embark on a new 
economic endeavor, it is time to progress forward. We are gonna fast 
track a effort to legalize Marijuana."

In an interview, Corn acknowledged the tribe has numerous legal 
hurdles it must research and overcome before it could legally plant 
and sell marijuana.

"We don't have anything set in stone. We're not going to legalize it 
tomorrow or anything," Corn said. "We have to find out whether it can 
be done, what are the obstacles, what are the pros and cons."

There are many obstacles, said Carl Artman, an Indian law attorney in 
Milwaukee and the former head of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. 
"It's a very gray area right now," said Artman, who is a member of 
the Oneida tribe. "There are still a whole lot of things to overcome 
before they could do it."

The question of whether the tribe should enter into the marijuana 
business has been percolating since last year, when the U.S. 
Department of Justice told federal prosecutors not to prevent tribes 
from growing or selling pot on their reservations, even in states 
such as Wisconsin that ban the practice.

Artman said the memo lacked specifics on how to move ahead.

"It was like being in New York and being told that to get to 
Wisconsin, you head west," Artman said. "The tribes and states and 
the federal government still have a lot to figure out."

Talk on the impoverished Menominee reservation and social media got 
stronger after Jan. 23, when Gov. Scott Walker rejected the tribe's 
bid to run an off-reservation casino in Kenosha - a project the tribe 
had been pursuing for nearly 20 years.

"It could be a huge agricultural resource," said Ken Fish, who serves 
as counsel for people in tribal court but is not a state-licensed attorney.

It appears that the Menominee is the only Wisconsin tribe that could 
take advantage of the federal directive. Wisconsin is one of six 
states in which state authorities enforce most crimes - including 
illegal drug use. The Menominee tribe is exempt from that law, so its 
violations are prosecuted by federal authorities.

The Justice Department memo, however, had several legal caveats 
pertaining to how tribes could grow marijuana without being subjected 
to federal law enforcement. The memo said the feds could enforce drug 
laws to prevent "the diversion of marijuana from states where it is 
legal under state law in some form to other states."

Anthony Broadman, a Seattle Indian law attorney, said that directive 
could pose a hurdle to the Menominee.

"I don't know how a reservation that is located in a state where pot 
is illegal" could transport the marijuana without violating the 
diversion provision as soon as it leaves the reservation, he said.

Unless Wisconsin lawmakers legalize marijuana for medical or 
recreational use, Broadman said, it appears that all the Menominee 
would be permitted to do is raise marijuana for use by its tribal 
members on the reservation.

Fish, however, said the tribe could get around the restriction by 
shipping its crop to states where it is legal. In order to get the 
marijuana off the reservation, the tribe would have to negotiate a 
series of compact agreements with states to permit it to legally ship 
the product, Fish said. He acknowledged that would be a difficult - 
but profitable - task.

"There is a big demand in states that sell medical marijuana. ... It 
is a huge market," Fish said. "Whoever gets there first is going to 

Corn agreed, saying that the 8,700-member tribe hopes to raise cash 
to help it cure the many social ills on its reservation. In 2010, the 
University of Wisconsin's School of Medicine and Public Health ranked 
Menominee County last in overall quality of health, according to the 
tribe's website.

"Even though the Kenosha casino got squashed, we still have the 
needs," Corn said. "We have to look at whatever we can to take care 
of those needs."

Tribes across the nation are considering entering the marijuana 
business and one - California's Pinoleville Pomo Nation - has already 
said it would soon grow medical marijuana. On Friday it was reported 
that Alabama's Poarch Creek tribe told Florida officials it might 
grow marijuana on land it owned in Florida unless the tribe was 
allowed to offer gambling in the state.

Both Artman and Broadman said the movement to allow tribes to grow 
marijuana is reminiscent of the early days of Indian gaming.

When the casinos first started popping up in the 1980s, there were 
constant battles between tribes and authorities over the legality of 
the operations. Today, many states embrace tribal casinos and collect 
millions of dollars in fees from the Indian governments that operate 
the gambling operations.

"The history of Indian law is a succession of tribes pushing the 
envelope," Broadman said. "No economic success has come to Indian 
country except when tribes stuck out their necks and tried something 
new. That's how they got Indian gaming."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom