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Upper Peninsula Native American tribe legalizes recreational marijuana

Marijuana plant
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Marijuana plant

An Upper Peninsula Native American reservation has opted to legalize recreational marijuana.

The Bay Mills reservation, which is about 20 miles west of Sault Ste. Marie and sits on Lake Superior, passed an ordinance regarding recreational cannabis earlier this week. This is after tribal citizens voted to legalize it back in January. 

Bryan Newland, Chairman and President of the Bay Mills Indian Community, says the tribe adopted an ordinance that mirrors the state’s recently passed law allowing recreational marijuana.

“But we didn’t want to go as far as to get into a big disagreement with the federal government and put our tribal members at risk of criminal prosecution in federal court,” Newland said.

Newland says under the ordinance tribal citizens can grow, possess, and use marijuana in private, just like Michigan residents can under the state’s law. But commercial marijuana businesses are still not allowed.

“So there’s no dispensaries under this law, no commercial grow operations,” he said.

Newland says if marijuana becomes legal federally, the tribe may consider allowing dispensaries to open.

“Maybe when it’s legal on the federal level, tribal members will tell us that they want to allow those business here, and if they do, elected officials here will take that into consideration,” he said.

Copyright 2021 Michigan Radio. To see more, visit Michigan Radio.

Bryce Huffman is Michigan Radio’s West Michigan Reporter. Huffman has been serving as a reporter for Michigan Radio since Fall 2016. He has covered a variety of Michigan stories, including immigrants facing deportation, the Detroit-area doctor involved in the female genital mutilation case, and residents concerned about a massive sinkhole in Macomb County. A Detroit native, Huffman graduated from Central Michigan University with a degree in Journalism. He joined Michigan Radio as a newsroom intern in May 2016.