The newly formed California Native American Cannabis Association is asking Gov. Jerry Brown to begin government-to-government consultations with tribes to ensure that cannabis regulations include specific language to respect tribal sovereignty and the right to self-regulate. The law governing California’s multibillion-dollar cannabis industry goes into effect on January 1 but currently does not include specific language addressing the sovereign rights of Indian nations.
To help build tribal support and ensure that tribal sovereignty is protected in the new law, C-NACA is planning a symposium on tribal cannabis issues from October 29 to November 1 at the Morongo Casino Resort in Cabazon, California.
“Just like gaming, it’s our sovereign right to get into this industry without compromising our rights,” said Blue Quisquis, President of Emerald Enterprise and Sapphire MJ Solutions, who has an extensive background in gaming operations and is now helping tribes enter into the cannabis market. “We organized C-NACA to build tribal support and to educate our fellow tribes about all aspects of the industry.
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“Like gaming, tribes are very capable of developing and regulating tribal cannabis operation through self-regulation to ensure the licensing of products is safe for all consumers. We can set standards to protect the public health and safety of our Community. We’re asking all California tribes to support the sovereign rights of those tribes getting into the cannabis business.”
Utu Utu Gwaitu Paiute Chairwoman Tina Braithwaite, an association member, said, “Tribes should be allowed to get into this industry without giving up sovereignty or jurisdiction to govern our land and people. We should not be subjected to the business licensing structure that the state is putting in place because we are self-governing nations and should be treated as nations. It’s very important for tribes to have strong regulatory bodies to show transparency and demonstrate that we are able to not only meet but also exceed California’s regulations in some areas.
“For those California tribes seeking to participate in the industry, it’s important to have government-to-government consultations with Governor Brown so that we are included in the law,” Braithwaite said. “Otherwise, tribes are going to get locked out of the marketplace. Currently, draft regulations do not include provisions for tribes, even though requests were made during the public comment period and after.”
Cynthia Gomez, Tribal Advisor to Governor Jerry Brown, responded to Braithwaite in a September 1 letter that said, “the State of California is open to the participation of trial governments in California’s cannabis marketplace. The various bureaus and agencies that are developing the regulatory framework that will govern that marketplace have conducted numerous outreach meetings, developed and distributed draft regulations, invited comments on those regulations, and are working hard to promulgate regulations that will create a fair, effective, and vibrant commercial marketplace and ensure protection of California consumers. During our meetings, we encouraged you to participate in that process as the most effective way to ensure that the interest of tribal governments are considered.”
Gomez added, “I have personally met with numerous tribal leaders and remain willing to meet and consult with tribes that have an interest in this issue. As the Tribal Advisor to the Office of the Governor, it is my responsibility to conduct these consultations on behalf of the Governor. As a member of a California tribe, it is a responsibility I take very seriously.”
C-NACA representatives welcomed the opportunity to conduct consultations to ensure protection and transparency for tribes. As more tribes seek economic development opportunities in the multibillion-dollar cannabis industry, Quisquis said education is a key factor to consider.
“We found that lack of education is part of the challenge for tribes considering cannabis,” Quisquis said. “For years, the public was told cannabis was a gateway drug that was bad for you and had no medicinal value. But now there’s an abundance of scientific knowledge, and it’s being used worldwide to treat cancer patients, seizures in babies, elders and veterans who are addicted to opioids, and many diseases. The U.S. government even has a Patent No. 6,630,507 for cannabinoids found to have antioxidant properties. I am very passionate about cannabis. I have seen and helped my sister go from stage III breast cancer to being cancer-free with cannabis.”
Good regulations and standards are key for tribal cannabis operations, Quisquis added.
“We formed C-NACA as a resource to assist tribes getting into the business. If tribes self-regulate and govern operations, it strengthens transparency, so we set it up in a way that ensures public health and safety, quality of the product, and protection of the community,” he said.
“We already self-regulate and govern our gaming operations, so to operate a cannabis business is no different. It’s important to protect our communities. All we are asking is for a government-to-government consultation to work together to ensure that public health and safety is met. Right now we feel we are getting left out because California officials are not sitting down with us to ensure that our regulations and products mesh with theirs,” he continued. “When tribes govern themselves and self-regulate, we are fully expressing our sovereignty to improve our people’s life on reservations for the next seven generations, and the communities around us. It’s important to build relationships with local government and law enforcement so they understand that our regulations are here to protect.”
Braithwaite said the nationwide opioid epidemic lends urgency to the issue.
“The nation is suffering a national crisis with opioid addictions and thousands of deaths from opioids and their side effects,” Braithwaite said. “Right now many medical professionals are using cannabis to help treat those diseases and we see science supporting the medical cannabis industry. Tribes want to be part of that and help our communities.”
C-NACA is hosting its first face-to-face meeting for tribes in Sacramento on September 20, from 1:30p.m.–3:30p.m. at 1225 8th Street, Suite 420. On October 29, C-NACA will host a symposium at Morongo where participants will learn about what tribal leaders need to know and taking the first steps on setting up a Tribal Cannabis Commission, tribal cannabis ordinances, regulations, surveillance, training, testing labs reports, labeling, audits, backgrounds, and more. For more information, call 760.638-0601, or email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the C-NACA website.
“Tribes want to set the high standards that meet or exceed California’s expectations for cannabis operations, and we need tribal support to speak as one voice,” Braithwaite said. “We want to stick together and use our sovereign right to operate businesses that benefit our communities. We want to get into this industry and do it right.”