The Lovelock City Council was confronted with the pot shop issue once again last week. Marijuana dispensaries had already been “zoned out” of the city but city leaders were notified that the Lovelock Paiute Indian Colony might open a marijuana establishment on tribal land.
Tribal leaders and their consultants asked city leaders to consider a compact that could give the city a share of the revenues from marijuana sales to non-native customers. The tribe has already signed an agreement with the state to comply with Nevada’s pot shop regulations.
Less than two days later, however, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the “Cole Memo” that had protected the state-regulated marijuana industry from federal prosecution.
Frontier Community Coalition Director Jeffrey Munk said he supports the AG’s decision to enforce federal drug laws that could shut down the marijuana industry or drive it underground.
“It’s good, I’m glad they are going back to the federal law,” he said. “I wish they had done that before the states had set up dispensaries. It’s going to be interesting to find out what the states’ rights are now that they do have dispensaries. The marijuana industry was illegal to start with and now it’s going to be interesting to see what the state is going to do about it.”
Pershing County Commissioner Carol Shank said she welcomed Sessions’ announcement.
“I think it’s great because I don’t believe in the legalization of recreational marijuana as I feel strongly that it can be a gateway drug. There are enough problems with Opioids and other drugs,” she said. “It is still not clear how Sessions’ stance will impact those states that have legalized marijuana.”
Tribal Cannabis Consulting Co-founder Cassandra Dittus was not phased by the Attorney General’s announcement. TCC assists tribes interested in opening marijuana businesses. She believes the state of Nevada will defend its marijuana regulatory program and the pot industry.
“This industry has consistently faced challenges and roadblocks throughout its growth and the recent announcement by AG Sessions will be yet another hurdle that the tribes and states face side by side,” she said. “Though the clarification memos for prosecution have been rescinded, the federal government does not have the resources or support to shut down an entire industry that spans most of the US, Puerto Rico, Guam and Tribal Nations where thousands of laws have been adopted to regulate it.”
Meanwhile, the city council may still need to decide if a dispensary compact with the Lovelock Paiute tribe is now appropriate for the city as proposed by Dittus and TCC co-founder Joe Dice. Both spoke on behalf of the tribe at last week’s city council meeting.
Dittus and Dice said a medicinal marijuana dispensary could provide economic and health benefits for the tribe that could be shared with the Lovelock community if a compact could be reached. The compact could give the city a share of the dispensary revenues and exclusivity for the tribe although the city council already zoned another proposed marijuana dispensary.
TCC has helped other Nevada tribes enact marijuana compacts with the state and cities.
The group assisted the Ely Shoshone Tribe with a state compact that enabled that tribe to open their marijuana dispensary on tribal land in early December. A portion of the marijuana sales tax revenues would be donated to the White Pine Boys & Girls Club according to the Ely Times.
After signing a compact with the state, Dice also helped the Yerington Paiute tribe reach a five-year compact with the City of Yerington. The city gets tax revenues for pot products sold to non-tribal members and the tribe gets the exclusive right to operate a marijuana dispensary in Yerington according to the Mason Valley News. Other tax revenues will support tribal services.
Dittus said her team assisted with the Lovelock tribal compact with the state to guarantee that tribal cannabis laws would conform with state regulations. The colony is willing to share the marijuana sales tax revenues with the City of Lovelock, Dittus told community leaders.
City leaders cannot prohibit the colony from operating a marijuana dispensary on tribal land although the tribe might reconsider if the federal government cracks down on cannabis. A tribal owned dispensary or farm off the colony could be zoned out by the city according to Kent Maher, the city’s legal counsel. Pershing County has also prohibited marijuana establishments.
City Councilwoman Pat Rowe asked Lovelock tribal leaders if a police force was in place to enforce marijuana regulations on the colony. Rhodes again referred the question to Dice who said the tribe had met state requirements for tribal law enforcement and other requirements.
“I’m sure they’ll satisfy all of their state compacts for that,” he said. “If they do enter a compact with you guys, you could participate in underage stings, you could get an MOU for response to emergency calls. But, the governor felt it was good enough for them to compact with the state.”
City Councilman Dan Murphy said there was no action to be taken by the city until a local agreement is presented by the Lovelock tribe. Dice recommended the city attorney work on a proposed compact while he works with the tribe on a draft agreement.
“It’s better if I can take something for them to vote on and your guy brings something for you and then you can all get together for a ceremonial signing or not,” Dice told the city council.
Murphy reminded the visitors that the city council already decided to “zone out” pot shops after such a business was proposed for Lovelock. But, he was willing to consider an agreement with the tribe that could operate a dispensary with or without out the city’s involvement.
“I think the council has made its wishes known regarding a medical marijuana dispensary however, because of the government loopholes, you are going to find a way to do it,” Murphy said. “So, if there is some benefit to the city, I think it’s worth looking at, at the very least.”
Dittus said patients who use the drug need access to safe, prepackaged medical marijuana products sold in dispensaries that may be superior to products sold on the black market.
“I’m for safe access. You have people driving an hour and a half to spend their money in Reno or they have delivery services out here,” she said. “It’s a consideration of community members. One in four people have cancer let alone the long list of other medicinal things people use it for.”
Dittus said the tribe’s share of the revenues could go only to beneficial community programs. City leaders could suggest the community programs most in need of revenues from the tribe.
“This will go to scholarships, new government departments, whatever you guys designate,” she said. “The only parameters right now are government services or social programs.”
Months ago, the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe’s quarterly newspaper anticipated Sessions’ decision to step up marijuana prohibition. “Be aware of an unrelenting Attorney General who will not hesitate to prosecute regardless of the issue of sovereign immunity.”
Although it also signed a cannabis compact with the state, the Pyramid Lake tribe seems less inclined to sell a drug classified as illegal by the federal government. An opinion piece in the tribal newspaper concludes with a warning for tribal members: illegal drug money is not worth the risk of losing the tribe’s most treasured cultural resource and economic asset.
“The white man doesn’t like the Indians taking away his profits and it wouldn’t take much to campaign the Republican Congress to take away the tribe’s trust status. The tribe would lose their cultural being: Pyramid Lake. And don’t think it can’t happen.”