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Feds Threaten Native American Tribe for Hosting a Cannabis Festival

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In a wave of intimidation against state marijuana, the federal government has threatened to shut down one of the largest upcoming weed festivals, the High Times Cannabis Cup.

Scheduled to happen March 4 and 5 just outside Las Vegas, on land belonging to the Moapa Paiute Tribe, the Cannabis Cup is a world-renowned trade show “celebrating the world of ganja through competitions, instructional seminars, expositions, celebrity appearances, concerts, and product showcases.” Past Cups have brought in tens of thousands of attendees, and have taken place everywhere from Amsterdam to Colorado to Washington to California.

On February 16, Las Vegas-based U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden sent a letter to the Moapa Paiute Tribe warning them that the possession, use, transportation, and distribution of marijuana remains a violation of federal law, regardless of Nevada’s pre-existing medical and newly passed adult use marijuana laws.

“I am informed that the tribal council is moving forward with the planned marijuana event referred to as the 2017 High Times Cannabis Cup because it is under the impression that the so-called ‘Cole Memorandum’ and subsequent memoranda from the Department of Justice permit marijuana use, possession, and distribution on tribal lands when the state law law also permits it,” Bogden’s letter reads. “Unfortunately, this is an incorrect interpretation of the Department’s position on that issue.”

The Cole Memo guides the Justice Department to take into account state policies when looking to prosecute violations of federal prohibition. Another memorandum, called the Guidance Memo, says that tribal government and U.S. attorneys should consult each other as specific issues come up. Memorandums, however, don’t have the rule of law and so can be superseded by the dictates of federal policy.

Since Bogden sent his letter, the Moapa Paiute Tribe has been working with the Nevada U.S. Attorney’s office to resolve the issue, according to Darren Daboda, chairman of the tribe. He says the tribe is looking to exercise its sovereignty. “As long as {marijuana} is not visible, we’re told it will be okay,” he told the Reno-Gazette Journal. “The tribe is promoting it as a vendors’ crafts, food, and concert event. We’re not promoting the distributor or selling {marijuana}.”

Feds Threaten Native American Tribe for Hosting a Cannabis Festival