Medical Marijuana Legislation Introduced in Congress

Written by: Bryan Newland

Primary Source: Turtle Talk

Last week, Senators Cory Booker, Kristen Gillibrand, and Rand Paul introduced S.683, the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act (CARERS Act).

The bill text is not yet available on Thomas.Gov, but a summary of the key provisions can be found here.

In short, S.683 would decriminalize medical marijuana at the federal level, but only for those states that have authorized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.  It also creates a safe harbor for banks to be able to serve certain growers, dispensaries, and manufacturers, and would authorize the Veterans’ Administration to prescribe marijuana to its patients in those states.

Since the bill text is not available yet, it isn’t clear whether and how the proposed legislation addresses Indian country.  It would seem that including tribes within the scope of this legislation would be consistent with the Department of Justice’s 2014 memorandum on the enforcement of marijuana laws in Indian country, and may provide some measure of certainty for tribes that are seeking to decriminalize marijuana.

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Bryan Newland
Bryan Newland is a citizen of the Bay Mills Indian Community (Ojibwe) in northern Michigan. He is a partner in the law firm of Fletcher Law, PLLC where he represents tribal clients on issues including the regulation of gaming facilities, negotiation of tribal-state gaming compacts, the fee-to-trust process, and leasing of Indian lands. Bryan also serves as the Chief Judge of the Bay Mills Indian Community Tribal Court and as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Michigan State University College of Law. In 2008, Bryan served as the Michigan Native Vote Coordinator for Barack Obama’s Presidential Campaign, and was a member of the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Team. From 2009 to 2012, he served as Counselor and then Senior Policy Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of the Interior – Indian Affairs. In that capacity, he helped develop the Obama Administration’s policies on Indian gaming and Indian lands, reforming the Department of the Interior’s policy on reviewing tribal-state gaming compacts. He also led a team that reformed the BIA’s Indian leasing regulations and worked with key officials to help enact the HEARTH Act of 2012.