TAHLEQUAH -- Oklahoma voters approved the legalization of medical marijuana in June, but the law holds no weight in the Cherokee Nation, according to the tribe's attorney general's office.
Voters approved State Question 788 on June 26, legalizing the licensed use, sale and growth of marijuana in Oklahoma for medicinal purposes. However, SQ 788 doesn't apply to CN jurisdiction because the tribe abides by tribal and federal laws, Deputy Attorney General Chrissi Nimmo said.
"State law legalization of medical marijuana has no effect on the Cherokee Nation as state law does not apply to Cherokee Nation," Nimmo said. "The possession and distribution of marijuana remains illegal under tribal and federal law."
She said because the CN receives multiple sources of federal funding, it's subject to federal law and regulation regarding such funding. Some of its funds are conditioned on prohibiting the use of marijuana (and other Schedule I drugs) in any form, Nimmo said.
"Any future changes regarding the legality of marijuana in the Cherokee Nation will have to be evaluated in light of federal law and policy," she said.
Though the CN is located within Oklahoma, the tribe adheres to tribal laws.
"State law applies on lands under the jurisdiction of the state, and tribal law applies on lands under the jurisdiction of the tribe," Nimmo said.
This means the possession of marijuana -- medical or recreational -- is illegal on all tribally owned properties, including CN buildings, casinos and facilities, she said.
Medical marijuana is also not exempt under CN Human Resources policy and procedure for any employees who may be using medical marijuana, Nimmo said.
As with any other tribal law, Indians who are found to be in possession of marijuana on tribal property are subject to CN criminal laws, and non-Indians who are in possession of marijuana on tribal land are subject to the criminal laws of the federal government, Nimmo said.
The passage of SQ 788 does make it more difficult for CN marshals when policing for drugs, but Nimmo said it's the same issue that states bordering Oklahoma have.
"For example, recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado, but if you drive across state lines into Oklahoma with it in your possession, you are violating Oklahoma law," she said. "The same is true for tribes. If a person legally possesses medical marijuana and enters Cherokee Nation, they are violating Cherokee Nation laws.
"The difference is Cherokee Nation does not have criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians within Cherokee Nation -- with the exception of the Violence Against Women Act -- so the possession of marijuana in Cherokee Nation by non-Indians is a federal crime," she added.
As of Sept. 7, 3,341 patient, 21 caregiver, 475 dispensary, 690 grower and 190 processor applications had been received, according to the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority. The OMMA, operating under the state Department of Health, was established to oversee the medical marijuana program for the state, according to the OMMA website, omma.ok.gov.
The OMMA is responsible for licensing, regulating and administering the program as authorized by state law.