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Another Tribe Enters The Medical Mj Growing Circle


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Another California tribe has announced its venture into the medical marijuana business. The Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians in Thermal, about 32 miles southeast of Palm Springs, recently entered into a partnership with Red Crow, a Native-owned cannabis company that designs, builds, manages and finances marijuana growing facilities for medical purposes.


“We are an impoverished tribe with a small casino that is barely keeping its head above water. We don’t have the cash flow like other tribes that have found success,” Mary Belardo, executive assistant to the tribal chairwoman, explained the reason for striking the deal. “The whole concept has potential to be an economic boom for the tribe, if done properly.”


While marijuana continues to be illegal at the federal level, 23 states—including California—have legalized it for medical use only, reports the Pew Research Center. According to statistics on the Red Crow website, the Golden State outshines all others in the legal cannabis market with copy.3 billion in sales, and the nearly 800-member Torres Martinez tribe is hoping to get a small piece of what is being touted as the fastest-growing industry in the United States.


Torres Martinez tribal members voted overwhelmingly (48 to 5) to move forward on the partnership with Red Crow. However, they still need tribal members to vote on the specific allocation of 47.2 acres of tribal land toward the growing and processing of organic medical cannabis. Red Crow said it will completely finance and manage the estimated copy2 million project, and in exchange, the tribe will own 51 percent of what is produced and sold to licensed medical dispensaries.


The tribe will operate its cannabis business under the aegis of the Sovereignty Medical Tribal Corporation, an entity the tribe founded back in 2004 when it was considering another medical-related partnership with a pharmaceutical company that Belardo said eventually fizzled.

Richard Tall Bear Westerman, the CEO of Red Crow, explained why he and his partner, Rick Hill, an Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin Native and former chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA), reached out to the Torres Martinez tribe in the first place: “They have a lot of land and they aren’t as successful as other California tribes. Because they are so poor, we think it is a great opportunity for them,” he said. “We want to work with tribes where we can make a real difference. It’s not just about cannabis, it’s about medicine, jobs and building communities.”


Westerman is the son of Floyd Red Crow Westerman, a famous Dakota Sioux known for his accomplishments as an actor, artist, musician and political activist who died in 2007. Westerman named his cannabis company after his father. Red Crow has also struck a similar deal with the Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians and is currently starting construction on Santa Rosa Farms. The Cahuilla tribe did not respond to a request for an interview with ICTMN.


The Torres Martinez spokeswoman said there is a lot of background work yet to do before the cannabis growing operation takes root—including resolving issues with the tribe’s water supply, in which an EPA investigation found high levels of arsenic, a naturally occurring element. “We are also currently developing regulations, putting business and operational plans together, and getting input from the sheriff and U.S. attorneys,” but Belardo anticipates the entire cannabis project will be completed in about six months.


Westerman said it will take a little longer. He projects that the growing and processing facility will be completed by January 2016 in preparation for what he expects will be the legalization of cannabis for recreational use in California.


So how will the lingering California drought affect the cannabis operation? “This is the desert, so drought is our middle name,” said Belardo. “Our water table is high and fluctuates, but as of now, it is high enough to have created artesian wells that had stopped flowing to begin to flow again.”

Westerman said the marijuana will be grown in a proprietary, state-of-the-art, secure building with solid walls known as an “automated light-deprivation production module”; it is not a greenhouse made of plastic, he emphasized. Belardo is not concerned about break-ins or security issues, either. “When we opened the casino, they said the mafia was going to come in and all that foolishness. It’s fear tactics. You can’t be successful if you go into something with fear.”


*NOTE: The Desert Sun newspaper reported in 2010 that the Torres Martinez tribe potentially misused millions of dollars of funds allocated for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Belardo addressed this issue with ICTMN:

“That story was sensationalized, from our point of view. We believe it had political implications from people who were running for office down here and trying to make a name for themselves. The accusations went absolutely nowhere, and we cleared the audit.”

Lynn Armitage is a contributing writer and an enrolled member of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin.

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/04/21/hitting-pot-jackpot-tribe-starts-medical-marijuana-cultivation-160089

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But they still can't use peyote for religious purposes....

That's actually not true, It can be use ceremonially by members of the Native American Church.  Members of the church sign a vow of poverty, so if someone wanted to start a peyote empire, it would go against the core values of their teachings.  The church host's ceremonial events all over the U.S.  At the last count there were over 250,000 members, making it the largest religious organization, of the Native American peoples.


"This Supreme Court case was a step backwards for the Native American Church and other Native American groups that used peyote for religious purposes. The case revolved around Alfred Smith and Galen Black, who had been fired for using peyote while working at a drug rehabilitation clinic. When the two filed for unemployment benefits, they were denied, as their loss of employment was deemed a result of professional misconduct. The Oregon Court of Appeals and the Oregon Supreme Court decided that Smith and Black had been in the right, having only consumed peyote in a religious ceremony. However, the United States Supreme Court reversed this decision. The decision was based on the justices' belief that Oregon's anti-peyote law did not go against First Amendment religious rights, as it prohibited peyote use in all people, not just Native Americans


The decision reached in Employment Division of Oregon v Smith was reversed in 1994 with the passing of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. This legislation legalized peyote when used in religious ceremonies by the Native American Church."


Speaking of Cannabis this happened in 2012, I'm unsure if it's been resolved yet.


(NaturalNews) The Native American Church ran into another legal hassle over using mind-altering herbs recently in Honolulu, Hawaii. Unlike other situations historically on the mainland, this confrontation's centerpiece was not peyote, but cannabis.


A FedEx package containing one pound of marijuana intended for the Hawaiian Oklevueha tribe's Native American Church was seized by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) in 2009. The pound of cannabis was given to the Honolulu Police who reportedly destroyed it. No criminal charges were pursued by the local police or DEA.


Michael Rex "Raging Bear" Mooney, the Native American Church's local leader, immediately filed a suit in Honolulu's court federal system demanding return of the cannabis or a payment of $7,000 if it wasn't replaced.


The case was dismissed because, according to U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway, "the court could not order the government to return that which it does not have."


Judge Mollway also went on to rule that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), also known as the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, does not warrant the return of items or payment thereof in the case of legal confiscation by a federal agency doing its duty within the provisions of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).


The DEA did not directly raid the church or its members. The package was reported to the DEA by FedEx. Thus, Judge Mollway ruled the DEA was within its rights and free from liability for that seized property.


Time for more courtroom confrontationsImmediately after that decision, Mooney and the Native American Church's attorney's filed for an injunction to protect their religious rights under the RFRA with cannabis or any other CSA banned mind-altering substance.


The RFRA wording mentions peyote, but not cannabis. However, whatever is considered a traditional sacrament for religious rituals is implied.


Regarding Mooney's filing for an injunction to practice their religious ceremonies, guaranteed by RFRA law without being shackled and hauled off to jail, Judge Mary Murguia supported the claim for their injunction demands. She referred to a 2010 DEA raid on another tribal Hawaiian church also using cannabis for their ceremonies as a valid concern for the plaintiff's future use of cannabis.


Although she supported Judge Molway's technically legal decision to not return or pay for the confiscated cannabis, she pointed out that the Supreme Court has established precedent by agreeing to an earlier CSA challenge based on the RFRA.


Judge Murguia asserted that the RFRA is a well developed law supporting the First Amendment's freedom of religion that should not require seeking an exception to CSA drugs from the DEA.


She concluded that the plaintiff's claims for an injunction are "fit for review." Obviously, the door is open for this tribe to get an injunction set. But it's not over yet. The court report was dated April 9, 2012. The wheels of justice turn slowly, if they turn at all.


An opinion offeredAll this legal hassling and parsing of laws over harmless herbs is nonsense. Big Pharma's highly dangerous drugs are prescribed and cause a higher death rate than all street drugs combined. Yet cannabis is still fair game for DEA abuse on non-criminal users?


Cannabis should be totally legal, just as more dangerous alcohol and tobacco are. All these government actions to grab cannabis and all the court hearings to protect religious freedom are a waste of money, time and energy. There should be NO drug laws imposed on ordinary citizens and tribal nations - period.


Also, it appears that using FedEx for shipping or receiving cannabis isn't a good choice.


Sources for this article include:













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I would agree practically, but not legally. You would have to ignore the supremely clause of the us constitution and the supreme court case law. The court of appeals out there is known for giving the supremes the middle finger, as is the Oregon supreme court.


Subsequent federal acts to address the smith opinion have been shot down.


Neutrality and general apllicability still rules the federal landscape.

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The American Indian Religious Freedom Act 1978


The American Indian Religious Freedom Act (commonly abbreviated to AIRFA) is a US federal law and a joint resolution of Congress that was passed in 1978. It was created to protect and preserve the traditional religious rights and cultural practices of American Indians, Eskimos, Aleuts and Native Hawaiians.  These rights include, but are not limited to, access of sacred sites, repatriation of sacred objects held in museums, freedom to worship through ceremonial and traditional rites, including within prisons, and use and possession of objects considered sacred.  The Act required policies of all governmental agencies to eliminate interference with the free exercise of Native religion, based on the First Amendment, and to accommodate access to and use of religious sites to the extent that the use is practicable and is not inconsistent with an agency's essential functions.  It also acknowledged the prior violation of that right.


It's a federal law, so yeah legally.


It doesn't give native's free reign to do whatever they want, but it does allow for banned substances to be used ceremonially, as a sacrament (similar to Catholic children partaking of wine, as the blood of christ).

Edited by slipstar059
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Navajos should not try to take their new tribal ID cards down to Mexico to buy peyote and bring it back to the United States.

If you do that, said David Tsosie, you will be arrested and you will go to jail.


The idea that the new card could be used for that purpose came from President Ben Shelly, who said as much in announcements on KTNN Radio, said Tsosie, president of the Azee Bee Nahagha of Dine Nation.


Laphillda Tso, a press officer for Shelly, said this was a misstatement and after Shelly was informed that the card could not be used for that purpose, the radio announcement was stopped.


Tsosie and Johnny Johnson, president of the Dine Native American Church of New Mexico, have both been putting out announcements to inform people of the facts.


"Today it is still illegal to possess, use and transport peyote within the country of Mexico with the exception of the Huichol Indians," Tsosie and Johnson said in a joint statement.


Mexican citizens have gone to jail after being caught with peyote, Tsosie said, adding that several years ago a Navajo family was stopped at the border and searched. When peyote was found, the family spent three or four months in a Mexican jail until NAC officials were able to convince the Mexican government to release them.


The only way for Navajos to get peyote legally, Tsosie said, is through a Native American Church like his or the one that Johnson heads.


And membership isn't enough. To be able to go to Texas, where the only legal peyote farms are located, NAC members must also possess a hauling permit from their organization that says any peyote that is purchased is for their own personal use or for their family or community members. It is illegal to purchase the peyote with the intention to sell it.


Tsosie said he recently went to Texas and was stopped three times by state police and had to show his hauling permit each time. Without a permit, the peyote farmers will not sell to a buyer, he said.


But the idea of being able to buy peyote in Mexico is becoming more and more tempting as prices in Texas rise.

Tsosie said it now costs $400 per 1,000 dry buttons and $350 for fresh buttons, which makes it very expensive.

He pointed out that with the gasoline prices around $3 a gallon, it could cost a family $300 or $400 in gas just to get to the farms. Counting food, the cost could hit $500 before any peyote is purchased.


In order to make the trip financially feasible a family would have to buy at least 3,000 buttons at a time.

Compare this to 20 years ago, Tsosie said, when gasoline was under $1 a gallon and you could buy a bundle of peyote buttons (which could hold as many as 3,000 buttons) for between $35 and $40.


Prices have risen steadily in the last decade as the number of legal peyote farms has dwindled to less than five. Owners of the ranches say it is getting more costly to grow the crop as well as to provide security against theft.


Meanwhile, membership in Tsosie's group as well as other NAC organizations is rising. He estimates that his group is now approaching 60,000 members.

The high cost of peyote has made it scarce in some Navajo communities.


Tsosie said he heard of one instance where there was no peyote available so the meeting instead had the peyote chief get on the altar and give blessings to members who came to it.


"Maybe it's time for people to get very conservative in their use of peyote," Tsosie said, pointing out that in the early 1900s, the church had very strict limits on how the peyote could be used.


But once it was declared legal for use in NAC ceremonies by the federal government in 1966, some NAC members "started taking it for granted" and as a result there have been instances where peyote use has been abused, he said.


As the sacrament gets ever more costly and scarce, Tsosie predicts that Native families will become more conservative in its use.

There is a solution to the problem and that goes back to the idea of allowing Native families to go to Mexico and buy it there, where it is more abundant and a great deal less expensive.


To do that, however, Mexico will have to make it legal to sell.


Tsosie said there are talks going on with the Mexican government and the U.S. State Department about allowing Natives to buy peyote in Mexico but no one knows how long that will take.


"I am optimistic that it will eventually happen," he said.

Edited by slipstar059
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I'd look at 42 usc. 1996a to better help your argument.


Congress has been smacked around good on the native American/first amendment stuff. Not sure if the 96 law has been challenged. I feel the supremes would rule they say way as in smith and smack it down just like rfra.


As long as scalia is one the court, I'm not betting on that one.


Congress does a backtrack on natives every few years. Plus, only federally recognized tribes get any theoretical protection.


Cheers, bud. I'm bottling me some beers tonight. I share one when they are done. I think we're both right!

Edited by suneday11
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Section B:

(b) Use, possession, or transportation of peyote

(1) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the use, possession, or transportation of peyote by an Indian for bona fide traditional ceremonial purposes in connection with the practice of a traditional Indian religion is lawful, and shall not be prohibited by the United States or any State. No Indian shall be penalized or discriminated against on the basis of such use, possession or transportation, including, but not limited to, denial of otherwise applicable benefits under public assistance programs.
(2) This section does not prohibit such reasonable regulation and registration by the Drug Enforcement Administration of those persons who cultivate, harvest, or distribute peyote as may be consistent with the purposes of this section and section 1996 of this title.
(3) This section does not prohibit application of the provisions of section 481.111(a) of Vernon’s Texas Health and Safety Code Annotated, in effect on October 6, 1994, insofar as those provisions pertain to the cultivation, harvest, and distribution of peyote.
(4) Nothing in this section shall prohibit any Federal department or agency, in carrying out its statutory responsibilities and functions, from promulgating regulations establishing reasonable limitations on the use or ingestion of peyote prior to or during the performance of duties by sworn law enforcement officers or personnel directly involved in public transportation or any other safety-sensitive positions where the performance of such duties may be adversely affected by such use or ingestion. Such regulations shall be adopted only after consultation with representatives of traditional Indian religions for which the sacramental use of peyote is integral to their practice. Any regulation promulgated pursuant to this section shall be subject to the balancing test set forth in section 3 of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Public Law 103–141; 42 U.S.C. 2000bb–1).
(5) This section shall not be construed as requiring prison authorities to permit, nor shall it be construed to prohibit prison authorities from permitting, access to peyote by Indians while incarcerated within Federal or State prison facilities.
(6) Subject to the provisions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Public Law 103–141; 42 U.S.C. 2000bb–1) [42 U.S.C. 2000bb et seq.], this section shall not be construed to prohibit States from enacting or enforcing reasonable traffic safety laws or regulations.
(7) Subject to the provisions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Public Law 103–141; 42 U.S.C. 2000bb–1), this section does not prohibit the Secretary of Defense from promulgating regulations establishing reasonable limitations on the use, possession, transportation, or distribution of peyote to promote military readiness, safety, or compliance with international law or laws of other countries. Such regulations shall be adopted only after consultation with representatives of traditional Indian religions for which the sacramental use of peyote is integral to their practice.

You mentioned the federal laws, and there it is...  I'm not trying to be argumentative either, it's a protected right, when used for religious purpose.  I've never used Peyote, and as of now have no desire too.  Psychedelic's aren't something to be taken lightly, and I would want a shaman present to help guide me, if I did ever chose to go through the ceremony. 


It's not as if the church is dealing buttons out the back door. 


I have no dog in the fight, although I hate seeing anything that rescinds the religious practices that Natives have been held since coming into being.

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Rfra said the same stuff. It was held unconstitutional when challenged.


How about this. You are completely right. Peyote is legal for federally recognized tribes for religious purposes until/if 42 usc. 1996 is challenged and deemed unconsitutional.


I know you aren't being argumentative. No worries, dude. You have a good point to make. It's just shoddy protection imo. Not one I(if I were a native american) would test

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Check out the Oklevauhua homepage, it's pretty interesting.  I'm just saying the Peyote comes secondary, to their beliefs.  If you aren't interested in their belief system, you aren't going to want to go through the ceremonies.  The Peyote ceremony is a full night of sitting in a TP with 30 other guys, and getting sickness out of you through the help of spirits.  The goal is to sit all night and stare at the fire, while a shaman/medicine man sings, and does rituals.  You have to sign a vow of poverty, and the religion itself is a mix of christianity, and spiritualism.  Most church members go through the ceremony once a year, but some may do it once a month.  A lot of vietnam era Native soldiers go through the ritual to ease their PTSD, It's also used as a way to help Native church members, stop drinking.




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