Ryan Stoa on the Tribal Cannabis Agriculture

Ryan Stoa has posted “Tribal Cannabis Agriculture Law,” forthcoming in the Utah Law Review, on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

Indian tribes have some freedom to develop their own approach to cannabis agriculture, but what is the nature of that freedom, and how have tribes acted upon it? This Article investigates the current legal framework surrounding tribal cannabis agriculture and tribal participation in legal cannabis markets. It is generally believed that tribes have some freedom to determine the legality of cannabis cultivation on their lands, and to create rules and regulations governing that practice. However, this freedom is nascent and inconsistently granted by the federal government. In addition, the legal frameworks tribes are developing with respect to cannabis agriculture are still evolving and poorly understood, since each tribe is free to craft their own unique approach to the cannabis industry. This Article examines the current tribal cannabis agriculture landscape in several ways. First, a big-picture snapshot of the U.S. cannabis industry in 2023 is provided in order to place tribal cannabis policies in an appropriate context. Second, the Article attempts to discern the federal government’s opaque perspective on tribal cannabis law, including the contours of tribal freedom to self-regulate in this area. Third, the Article identifies trends and approaches to tribal cannabis agriculture that have emerged to date, with examples of cannabis policies from tribes around the country. Finally, a case study of the Hoopa Valley Tribe is presented in order to bring to life the legal complexities of this topic.

Michalyn Steele on Congressional Powers and Sovereignty in Indian Affairs

Michalyn Steele has posted “Congressional Power and Sovereignty in Indian Affairs” on SSRN. The paper is forthcoming in the Utah Law Review.

Here is the abstract:

The doctrine of inherent tribal sovereignty — that tribes retain aboriginal sovereign governing power over people and territory — is under perpetual assault. Despite two centuries of precedential foundation, the doctrine must be defended afresh with each attack. Opponents of the doctrine of tribal sovereignty express skepticism of the doctrine, suggesting that tribal sovereignty is a nullity because it is not unfettered. Some pay lip service to the doctrine while undermining tribes in their exercise of inherent sovereignty. Underlying many of these legal fights is confusion about both the nature of tribal sovereignty and the justifications for its continuing existence. Under current federal law, tribes are domestic, rather than international sovereigns. Tribes retain significant powers but are subject to the ultimate sovereignty of the United States. The sui generis status of Indian tribes in the American legal landscape generates important and difficult questions: which governing powers do tribes retain and where does the power to answer that question reside in the federal system? How are disputes about the scope of tribal authority to be resolved?

As the debate about what powers tribes may exercise (and over whom) continues into its third century, it is critical to reexamine the origins of the doctrine of inherent tribal sovereignty as a settled principle of federal law and to articulate the principles that ought to guide the development of that principle in the future. Setting the metes and bounds of the doctrine of tribal sovereignty in federal law and policy belongs to the political branches. This Article suggests legal principles that ought to guide the federal political branches in the exercise of the Indian Affairs power and the trust responsibility to address the scope of tribal inherent authority. First, this Article examines the legal roots and branches of the doctrine of inherent tribal sovereignty, demonstrating that the doctrine remains a vital principle of federal law. Second, this Article analyzes the nature of contemporary assaults on the doctrine of inherent tribal authority by all three branches of the federal government, states, and private actors. Third, this Article suggests principles that ought to guide Congress in exercising its Indian affairs power to clarify and affirm the bounds of tribal sovereignty in federal law and in carrying out the federal trust responsibility to tribes.

Highly recommended.

Sarah Deer on Improving the Federal Response to Sexual Violence in Indian Country

Sarah Deer has Published “Bystander No More? Improving the Federal Response to Sexual Violence in Indian Country” in the Utah Law Review.

Here is the abstract:

For better or worse, the federal government has taken responsibility for providing for the protection of Native people. So long as the federal government refuses to allow tribes to govern themselves completely and independently, it is imperative that the federal government enact policies empowering Native survivors of sexual assault. The federal government must do more to protect tribal members from sexual predators, to safeguard reservations not only from career criminals but also to ensure that federal agencies like the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Services do not hire men with a history of violence against women or children. Further, when attacks do occur, the federal government must investigate and prosecute these crimes in a timely manner.

Highly recommended.