Indian tribes have some freedom to develop their own approach to cannabis agriculture, but what is the nature of that freedom, and how have tribes acted upon it?

This Article investigates the current legal framework surrounding tribal cannabis agriculture and tribal participation in legal cannabis markets. It is generally believed that tribes have some authority to determine the legality of cannabis cultivation on their lands, and to create rules and regulations governing that practice. However, this freedom is nascent and inconsistently granted by the federal government. In addition, the legal frameworks tribes are developing with respect to cannabis agriculture are still evolving and poorly understood, since each tribe is free to craft their own unique approach to the cannabis industry.

This Article examines the current tribal cannabis agriculture landscape in several ways. First, a big-picture snapshot of the U.S. cannabis industry in 2023 is provided in order to place tribal cannabis policies in an appropriate context. Second, the Article attempts to discern the federal government’s opaque perspective on tribal cannabis law, including the contours of tribal freedom to self-regulate in this area. Third, the Article identifies trends and approaches to tribal cannabis agriculture that have emerged to date, with examples of cannabis policies from tribes around the country. Finally, a case study of the Hoopa Valley Tribe is presented in order to bring to life the legal complexities of this topic.