Published On: Wed, Apr 27th, 2016
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Tribal Marijuana Sovereignty Act introduced in House





A new bill introduced in the House of Representatives would make it illegal for federal agencies to take into account the marijuana policy of a federally-recognized tribe when disbursing federal monies.  The Tribal Marijuana Sovereignty Act (TribalMarijuanaSovereigntyAct), introduced by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.), takes aim at current federal policies as well as the proposed Keeping out Illegal Drugs Act of 2015 which would “prevent Indian tribes and tribal organizations that cultivate, manufacture, or distribute marijuana on Indian land from receiving federal funds”.

Rep. Pocan said in a statement on Wednesday, April 20, “I strongly believe states should be allowed to enact their own marijuana laws, and have consistently supported attempts to ensure federal laws do not interfere with them.  I’m also an ardent supporter of tribal sovereignty, which is why I introduced this bill forbidding the federal government from considering marijuana production, possession, or sale as an adverse factor when disbursing federal funds.”

The five-page bill also includes a section dealing with Indian Health Service, “…IHS medical professionals are authorized to make medical recommendations to their patients with regard to marijuana…”

Members of Common Sense Cannabis, a grassroots group comprised of EBCI tribal members, see hope in the Tribal Marijuana Sovereignty Act.  “After reviewing the bill that was introduced last week, this action is promising for all tribes across the nation who are interested in pursuing any kind of cannabis endeavor,” said group member Joey Owle.  “Given the introduction of this bill is so recent, we will have to sit back and wait to see what becomes of it.”

He added, “What is particularly promising in this bill is the language regarding IHS healthcare providers who will be given the authority to discuss cannabis as a medicine with their patients and then recommend it.  Some conversation for our Tribe has focused on how legalization of cannabis would affect some federal funding.  This bill provides that answer.”

The USDA-NRCS (U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service) issued a directive in 2014 that prohibits the agency from releasing any federal funds to producers of marijuana, even if said production is legal in that state.

The Keeping out Illegal Drugs Act was introduced by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) on Aug. 5, 2015 and was referred to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs the same day.  The legislative tracking website,, is giving the bill a 16 percent chance of being enacted.