Wisconsin’s Menominee Nation holds forum, sets advisory referendum on legal pot

Great Seal of the Menominee Nation. (Menominee Nation)
Great Seal of the Menominee Nation. (Menominee Nation)

Wisconsin’s Menominee Nation held an educational forum at its convention center in Keshena on the legalization of cannabis on July 14-15 and has also scheduled an advisory referendum on legalization for August 19-20, 2015.

Cannabis is also on the agenda for an August 13 general council session of the entire tribal membership.

On Dec. 18, 2014, The U.S. Justice Department issued a memo informing all U.S. Attorneys that marijuana enforcement efforts on Native American tribal lands should be guided by the 2013 DOJ “Cole” memorandum that set guidelines for federal non-interference if 8 conditions were met.

The 9000 member tribe is the second Wisconsin tribe to hold an advisory referendum this year. The Red Cliff Band, in an advisory referendum on May 8, 2015, supported legalizing cannabis for medical use, but voted down legalizing for adult use.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported earlier this year that it appears the Menominee is the only Wisconsin tribe that could take advantage of the federal memo. The tribe is exempt from state law, so violations are prosecuted by federal authorities.

Talk of cannabis cultivation on the impoverished Menominee reservation and social media exploded after Gov. Scott Walker rejected the tribe’s 20-year project to run an off-reservation casino in Kenosha in January 2015. The tribe asked for a meeting in February with Gov. Walker over the casino denial. Tribal members set off on a 5-day, 156-mile march from Keshena to the State Capitol in Madison. Walker refused to take that meeting, triggering a raucous rally in the Capitol Rotunda.

An FAQ from the Menominee nation provides information and answers to questions about legalization on the reservation explains the process. Here is the announcement on the referendum:

The Tribe is in the process of, and will continue to explore the possibility of legalization of marijuana on the Menominee Reservation. We will engage in a thorough, deliberative review of all the economic, social, health, and other effects of legalization. We will ensure that tribal members have a number of opportunities to receive information, and provide input. We will consider very limited legalization plans to very broad legalization plans.

Until such time as the Menominee Tribal Legislature chooses to change the law on the Menominee Reservation the manufacture, distribution, and possession of marijuana remain illegal under Tribal law and both Tribal and Federal law enforcement officers and prosecutors will enforce these laws.

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