The Eastern Shoshone in Wyoming is considering legalizing medical marijuana and hemp production.
While tribal representatives were unable to comment by press time, local news outlets report that the tribe’s General Council voted to look into the legalization earlier this year.
Richard Collins, a University of Colorado law professor, said it’s a challenging situation.
Tribes in states such as South Dakota and Wisconsin that tried something similar were reined in by those states and federal authorities. While federal law says tribes can act like states when it comes to legalizing marijuana, federal authorities didn’t come to protect tribal rights in those cases. Collins said that’s likely because marijuana is still illegal under federal law.
“It would probably be up to the state of Wyoming to react,” he said. “My guess is it would react ... and if it did so, the feds would not protect the tribe.”
Hemp production is also complicated. The non-psychoactive cannabis plant is now legal under federal law. And if Wyoming finalizes its hemp program rules ahead of the 2020 growing season, as it plans to do, Collins says it’s possible the Eastern Shoshone and other tribes in the state will be able to produce it, too.
Correction: In an earlier version of this story, we said hemp production was not legal in Wyoming. While the state has not started licencing hemp production in the state yet as it waited on federal rules, the legislature has legalized hemp production.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.