Feds threatening Nevada tribes looking to tap into legal cannabis


Pictured: A member of the Yerington Paiute Tribe performs a dance at a local dedication ceremony

According to tribal members residing Nevada, federal agencies are threatening cannabis businesses on tribal land even though state social cannabis sales began in July.

Although Nevada’s tribal cannabis compact bill became law this summer and allowed tribes to grow and sell cannabis, there are currently no tribes in the state who operate dispensaries or cannabis grows on reservation land.  

Laurie Thom, the council chair of the Yerington Paiute Tribe, said the federal government is threatening any tribe who seeks to open a grow or dispensary on reservations. After meeting with a law enforcement official from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the official told Thom he would enforce federal law on tribal land because the US Attorney General would provide the necessary warrants.

A court ruling on the case of Worchester v. Georgia established tribes as sovereign nations within the United States. As a federal trust land, reservations fall under federal jurisdiction but have the ability to pass laws, regulate commerce, levy taxes and prosecute tribal members in their respective justice system.

“What we’re hearing from the federal agencies — the Department of Justice, Bureau of Indian Affairs, the FBI, and the DEA — is they will enforce if the tribes try to open dispensaries, grows, or just retail,” said Nortberto Cisneros, a Las Vegas attorney who represented various tribes in court over the last decade. Cisneros said federal agents might raid these operations, prosecute participants, seize assets, and ultimately close the tribes’ businesses before they have a chance to turn a profit.