Tribes Weigh Pros and Cons of Entering Marijuana Industry

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Though some Native American tribes have already taken the plunge into cannabis cultivation and commerce, plenty are still debating whether the move makes sense.

Among the primary worries: potential legal repercussions in an uncertain regulatory environment.

“We’re relying on a set of four different memos which is not federal law,” said Janet Hipp Simms, an attorney and professor at the University of Arkansas School of Law. “Until there’s more clarity we need to be very cautious about how we move forward. There’s…not really good data on the return of investment with marijuana production and we don’t have clear paths either as a matter of federal or state law.”

Simms’ comments were made at a recent tribal conference in Idaho that drew Native Americans from across the country, many of whom wanted to discuss cannabis.

She also dissected the question of whether growing marijuana instead of other crops would be a worthwhile use of resources. Simms argued that tribes need to make such comparisons in every case before they start growing cannabis, to make sure they’re getting the biggest benefit from their farming resources.