Las Ve­gas pot fes­ti­val may be shut down

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS - Jenny Kane Reno Gazette-Jour­nal

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.

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