|Written by Michael Meuers, Red Lake News,
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RED LAKE, Minn. – Although the
subject was not on the printed agenda for the Red Lake Tribal Council
at the regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Jan. 13, recent acts by
the federal government concerning Indian tribes, hemp and marijuana
prompted several tribes to explore the feasibility of growing medical
marijuana and industrial hemp.
Red Lake Chairman Darrell G. Seki,
Sr., added the agenda item shortly after the call to order. He said
he felt the federal ruling should at least be discussed. Seki cited
several tribes that are looking deeper into the issue and mentioned
fewer yet that were actually taking action.
Immediately, Red Lake citizen and
Gardening Tech at Red Lake Traditional Foods David Manuel asked to
address those assembled and spoke of the economic advantages to
getting involved with at least industrial hemp and possibly medical
marijuana. “Give me one of those three green houses near the
elementary school for a year and I'll give you five million dollars,"
Manuel said. He offered no plan nor statistics for that claim.
Nearly everyone on the 11-member
tribal council weighed in, including several chiefs and Red Lake
members seated in the audience. Discussion ran the gamut from
favorable to cautionary for both industrial hemp and medicinal
Council member Roman Stately said
toward the end of the discussion, that he "knew very little
about either hemp or marijuana. We need a feasibility study. Lets
learn about it.” Several council members and citizens agreed that
they just were unfamiliar with the issue and that the tribe should
explore the matter from a legal, economic and other issues
surrounding the federal memo.
It was then moved and seconded, then
passed unanimously to direct Red Lake Economic Development and Legal
Departments to conduct a feasibility study and fact-finding mission
on the issue and report back to council at an unspecified time.
Seki emphasized that whatever the
outcome, no resolutions or tribal laws will be enacted without
consultation with the membership both in informational meetings and
eventually in a referendum … a vote of the entire nation. “Whatever
we do, it will be done very carefully,” he said.
Seki, who holds informational and
brainstorming sessions in each of the four Red Lake communities from
time to time, said that for the next series of community meetings
will be conducted over a two week period in February, that he will
add the issue to the agenda and encouraged all Red Lake members to
participate in that and all issues of concern to the tribe.
In early December, the federal
government released a three-page memo announcing that the federal
government will not prosecute Native Americans tribes for growing and
selling marijuana on tribal lands, even in states where the drug is
illegal. Most tribal leaders have no concerns about cannabis and
expressed interest in the business opportunity.
There appears to be concern that the
vagueness of the language will open the door to unnecessary
prosecution – especially since in one part of the memo, the U.S.
Department of Justice says that the states attorneys general will
still have the authority to stop criminal activity on tribal land.
Red Lake, however as a 'clouded reservation' is is exempt from state
law and answers only to Congress.
According to the memo, originally
dated and sent on Oct. 28, U.S. attorneys will prosecute marijuana
sales on tribal land according to the same guidelines they have
adopted for the states – focusing on keeping marijuana out of the
hands of organized crime, away from children and not diverting it to
states where marijuana remains illegal.
Red Lake Chairman's Upcoming Community
Little Rock: Wednesday, Feb. 11, 6 p.m.
Red Lake: Wednesday, Feb. 18, 6 p.m.
Redby: Monday, Feb. 23, 6 p.m.
Ponemah: Wednesday, Feb. 25, 6 p.m.
PHOTO: The Red Lake Tribal
Council (Photo by Michael Meuers).