The title of the symposium in San Diego in March was provocative: “Marijuana: the next big thing in Native American economic development?”
At least five Oklahoma tribes or tribal operations were listed as attendees: Comanche, Cherokee, Kickapoo, Otoe-Missouria and Tonkawa.
Two of those tribes, however, as well as two others not listed as attending the conference, said they have no plans to explore launching businesses that would grow or sell medicinal or recreational marijuana.
Some tribes in other states plan to legalize marijuana and grow or sell it – an option that opened up last year when the U.S. Department of Justice signaled a policy shift by indicating tribes could grow marijuana on their lands if other federal laws weren’t violated.
Regardless, “it’s not a direction we’re going in,” said Heather Payne, spokeswoman for the Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Oklahoma. Payne said the San Diego conference was held in conjunction with a gaming event and that several tribal representatives attended briefly. The event was sponsored by Native Nation Events, a New Jersey-based company.
The Cherokee Nation also isn’t pursuing any marijuana ventures, said spokeswoman Julie Hubbard. She denied that anyone from the tribe attended the conference.
“The issue of selling marijuana hasn’t come up in any Cherokee Nation Tribal Council meetings, and the tribe has been focused on other things, such as opening new health centers, a general election and an inauguration ceremony held this past Friday,” Hubbard said. “The Cherokee Nation has not had representation at any conferences on the growing or selling of marijuana.”
The leader of one of Oklahoma’s larger tribes, the Chickasaw Nation, also said the tribe is not interested in marijuana commerce.
“Regardless of recent changes to U.S. Department of Justice policy, the Chickasaw Nation has no desire to pursue growing or selling marijuana,” Bill Anoatubby, governor of the Chickasaw Nation, said in a written statement. “The Chickasaw Nation plans to continue its current policy of abiding by state marijuana laws on lands where we have legal jurisdiction.
“We also plan to continue cooperating with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs and other state and local law enforcement agencies to enforce state marijuana laws within the Chickasaw Nation jurisdictional area. We do not foresee a situation which would cause us to change our current policy,” he said.
The Choctaw Nation said it does not plan to explore legalization.
“The tribe is not pursuing any activities related to marijuana growth or sales,” said Choctaw Public Relations Director Waddel Hearn Jr.