Las Vegas pot festival may be shut down
One of the world’s largest marijuana festivals, which is expected to be held this week on tribal land outside of Las Vegas, has been facing a possible shutdown for the past two weeks, according to a letter sent by federal officials earlier this month.
U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden, based in Las Vegas, sent a Feb. 16 letter to the Moapa Paiute Tribe reminding the tribe that the transport, possession, use and distribution of marijuana is illegal under federal law. The marijuana trade show and festival, planned for March 4 and 5, would be in violation of that law, according to the letter obtained by the Reno Gazette-Journal.
“I am informed that the tribal council is moving forward with the planned marijuana event referred to as the 2017
High Times Cannabis Cup because it is under the impression that the so-called ‘Cole Memorandum’ and subsequent memoranda from the Department of Justice permit marijuana use, possession and distribution on tribal lands when the state law also permits it. Unfortunately, this is an incorrect interpretation of the Department’s position on this issue.”
The Cole Memorandum provides guidance to federal officials in states that have legalized marijuana in some form. In 2011, then-deputy attorney James Cole directed all U.S. attorneys to take into account local laws when looking at marijuana enforcement, which allowed officials to give lesser priority to marijuana crimes.
Another memo, the Guidance Memorandum, indicates that tribal governments and U.S. attorneys should consult government-to-government as issues arise.
“Nothing in the Guidance Memorandum or the Cole Memorandum alters the authority or jurisdiction of the United States to enforce federal law in Indian Country or elsewhere,” Bogden wrote in the letter.
The tribe has since been working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Nevada to resolve the conflict, according to tribal chairman Darren Daboda. The U.S. Attorney’s Office confirmed the letter but declined comment.
If federal officials were to intervene, it would be one of the first indicators that the White House is indeed going to crack down on marijuana crimes in states that have legalized recreational marijuana. Thus far, only spotty, vague statements have been released so far, but no clear plan of action has been revealed by the new administration.
State Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, will be proposing a bill later this legislative session to address recreational marijuana policies for tribes in-state.
“This is the kind of event that we’d like to see in Nevada. This could be a huge boost for the tourism industry,” said Segerblom, a staunch advocate for marijuana.
Nevada Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, says recreational pot events could help the state’s tourism industry.