The rollout of adult use marijuana sales in California has garnered a lot of press attention due to the sheer size of the potential market. In the near future, there could be thousands of businesses operating in the cannabis market in the Golden State, generating tens of thousands of jobs or more. But not everyone in California can access the legal market, and those on the outside looking in aim to change that.
As things stand right now, Native American tribes within California can set their own marijuana policy on tribal land. They can allow marijuana sales, and cannabis businesses on tribal land can engage in commerce with businesses on other tribal land. But marijuana companies operating on tribal land cannot access the regulatory framework set up under Prop. 64 – the adult use legalization measure that California voters approved in 2016.
Attempts have been made to solve this problem via the state legislature, but ultimately it was decided by the state that in order for tribes to access the broader market, they would have to allow regulators control over their operations on tribal land. The tribes – eager to protect their status as sovereign independent nations – refused. This leaves the state and the tribes in a sort of limbo.
It seems naïve for tribal leaders to think that state officials will give up regulatory control over businesses operating in the market they regulate. The nature of government is not to relinquish power. And in the end, tribal leaders may be glad to avoid the often economically crippling effects of regulations – the same regulations and restrictions that are hampering the adult use market in the state right now.
If enough tribes decide to get into the cannabis market, a small but vibrant industry could be created in California, one that avoids the heavy hand of the state regulatory framework. In this way, a new kind of market could be created; one that shows that marijuana is not something that needs to be restricted, but instead an amazing economic opportunity that needs to be unleashed.
The more likely scenario is that the tribes will work with state lawmakers and come to some sort of compromise. Maybe they can gain access to the California market without giving up too much in return.
After all, not many will object to Native Americans tribes being cut a little slack given historical interactions.