Joyce, Mast Call on POTUS to Protect Tribes from Unjust, Misguided Enforcement of Federal Cannabis Laws

Oct 10, 2022

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) announced that he and his fellow Republican Co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) have formally called on President Joe Biden to address the unjust treatment of Tribal communities by federal authorities regarding cannabis.

Specifically, the lawmakers have called on President Biden to use his authority to ensure the Bureau of Indian Affairs and related agencies respect Tribal sovereignty and refocus their attention on more pressing issues, including Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and human trafficking.

“Enforcing Federal cannabis laws on Tribal land, especially in cases where the Tribe and the State have legalized cannabis use, is wrong and it needs to stop,” said Joyce. “Tribes are sovereign nations, and they have just as much of a right to enact and enforce their own laws as States do. I urge the President to take action to prevent the misguided prioritization and unjust enforcement of federal marijuana laws only on reservations.”

“First and foremost, the Biden Administration needs to respect the sovereignty of Tribes,” said Mast. “But beyond that, last week’s announcement showed a willingness to let states set cannabis policy, so the President should keep with that trend and focus on bigger problems like the violence and exploitation of indigenous communities.” 

Earlier this year, Joyce, as the Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, secured hallmark language protecting the rights of Tribes that have authorized the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of cannabis. You can listen to Joyce discuss his concerns with Interior Secretary Haaland when she testified before the Subcommittee to discuss the Department of the Interior’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget request.

You can view the full letter here and below:

Dear President Biden,

In light of your recent executive orders regarding cannabis, we would like to highlight another area in this space that requires urgent action: the enforcement of federal cannabis laws on Tribal land. We request that you use your authority to keep the Bureau of Indian Affairs and related agencies, such as the National Indian Gaming Commission, focused on more pressing public safety and justice needs, including Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and human trafficking, and require such agencies to respect Tribal sovereignty moving forward. 

Legal, thriving cannabis programs are economic engines for Tribes. Last year, Bureau of Indian Affairs law enforcement officers raided a home on the land of the Picuris Pueblo in New Mexico, seizing a man’s legal supply of medical cannabis despite the fact that the Pueblo passed laws legalizing its use. Enforcing federal cannabis laws on Tribal land, especially in cases where the Tribe and the State have legalized cannabis use, is wrong and it needs to stop. Not only is it not right, but it is discriminatory. These misguided enforcement actions have sent a chill through Indian Country – Tribes are unsure if the Federal Government will continue to enforce and prioritize federal cannabis laws only on reservations. 

To address this issue in Congress, we included language in the House Fiscal Year 2023 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, H.R. 8262, to prevent Interior and Justice entities from enforcing federal cannabis laws inconsistent with Tribal laws. Tribes are sovereign nations, and they have just as much of a right to enact and enforce their own laws as States do. 

Again, we request that you take prompt action to have the Bureau of Indian Affairs focus on more pressing issues like human trafficking and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, rather than enforcing Federal cannabis laws inconsistent with Tribal laws. Thank you for your consideration of this request.


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