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Another Upper Peninsula tribe says "yes" to recreational marijuana

marijuana plant
Drew Taylor
Marijuana plant

Another Native American tribe in the state has voted to legalize recreational marijuana, making them to second tribe in Michigan to do so.

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians approved of a resolution that mirrors the state’s recreational marijuana laws.

Residents 21 and older will be able to posses, grow and use marijuana, but people are still not allowed to operate a motor vehicle while using it. People with past marijuana related offenses can request that the Tribal Court vacate their offenses. 

Residents still won't be able use marijuana in public when the law goes into effect May 15. 

This comes after the nearby Bay Mills Tribe – which is about 20 miles west of the Sault Tribe –passed an ordinance to legalize recreational marijuana on its reservation last week.

Aaron Payment, the Tribal Chairperson, says there is still uncertainty around if federal officials will try to prosecute tribal members who use marijuana.

“Tribes are sovereign nations, but under some circumstances, there is federal jurisdiction. So that’s still an open question,” Payment said.

The United States Attorney General’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Payment says the resolution is still in a 30 day referendum period where the tribe will put together an implemetnation plan. Durign this time, the Sault Tribe Law Enforcement Department will look more carefully at what specific things will and won't be legal on the reservation. 

Payment says the tribe is considering opening a dispensary, but this poses more jurisdictional questions because the state has not decided how it regulate commercial cannabis.

“But certainly anything that would be done on the reservation is completely and totally within our jurisdiction,” he said.

The Tribe still has decided to eliminate its preemployment drug screening, which allowed employers to terminate individuals who test positive for marijuana on drug tests.

This post has been edited to clarify what is currently allowed on the reservation and what might be allowed after the 30 day referendum period.

Bryce Huffman was Michigan Radio’s West Michigan Reporter and host of Same Same Different. He is currently a reporter for Bridge Detroit.
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