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Crow Tribe to approve cannabis ordinance in Montana

April 22, 2021 GMT

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Native American tribe in Montana is expected to enter the cannabis industry after approving an ordinance last week to oversee its own cultivation and sale of marijuana, and benefit from the revenue.

Crow Tribe Chairman Frank White Clay is expected to approve the Crow Cannabis Ordinance, which allows the tribal government to sell marijuana and cannabis-infused products with a sale tax of 7%, The Billings Gazette reported Wednesday.

The Crow Nation Legislative Branch approved the ordinance April 16.

“We’re moving forward. We’re diversifying our economy throughout the tribe. Coal was the name of the game for the tribe for a while, but for good business we have to diversify within the reservation,” White Clay told The Gazette.

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In recent years, individual states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, but the cultivation of cannabis in Indian Country has sparked debate between tribal members and federal authorities for decades.

In Montana, the Blackfeet Nation decriminalized the possession of medical marijuana in 2018. The same year, the Fort Peck Tribal Council said no tribal member could possess any kind of marijuana. Both sovereign nations maintained their decisions, despite medical marijuana being legal in the state since 2004.

The state approved the recreational use of marijuana in 2020, and lawmakers have since tried to determine what the legal growing and selling of cannabis will look like by 2022. White Clay, who took office a month later, said the Crow Tribe is generally accepting of the legalization of marijuana.

“We’ve had medical marijuana for quite some time, and the Crow Tribe is not isolated … The reservation itself is more accepting (of it), and we’re just moving with the times,” he said, noting that marijuana will be sold on surrounding non-tribal land regardless of what the tribe decides.

Plans for the tribe to launch its own dispensaries are in beginning stages, and the ordinance could change, White Clay said.

Thor Hoyte, legal counsel for the Crow Tribe, said both White Clay and other tribal leaders have been in conversation with the state to avoid any confusion regarding marijuana’s legal status. He said the tribe will run parallel to the state, despite having sovereignty and not needing state permission.