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Medical Marijuana Patient Will Sue Federal Agencies Over ‘Biased’ Tribal Land Raid
A New Mexico man whose medical marijuana garden was raided by federal agents on tribal land in 2021 plans to file a lawsuit seeking $3.5 million in damages over what is known as a example of racial discrimination in the application of cannabis.
In September 2021, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) raided the garden of a Pueblo de Picuris member and destroyed nine plants he was growing for personal therapeutic purposes in accordance with state and tribal law.
Now, about a year later, Charles Farden has filed a tort lawsuit indicating his intention to sue the federal government. He says the raid was carried out without a legal warrant, and he says the enforcement action revealed a federal double standard that inherently discriminates against Indigenous peoples.
Indeed, an amendment to the Congressional spending bill prohibits the Justice Department from using its federal funds to interfere in the implementation of state medical cannabis programs, which has generally protected patients acting in accordance with state law. But BIA falls under the Home Office, which means it does not have to adhere to the rider restriction.
The result is a policy that allowed the ban to be selectively enforced in a “racially discriminatory manner”, according to the tort action of Farden, who is represented by Independent State Senatoe Jacob Candelaria.
“We submit that one of the determining factors why the damages are so high in this case is also how blatantly racist the enforcement of federal drug policy by the Department of the Interior is,” said Candelaria Candelaria to the media. “If you are a non-native person who engages in the same behavior as Farden on non-native territory, your chance of federal prosecution and conviction is close to zero because Congress blocked the Justice Department from using money to enforce the law,” he added.
“These officers had no warrant to enter or search, let alone seize, property. These officers in fact violated… BIA policy, which is very clear that when BIA officers are required to enforce the law on controlled substances they have to preserve and catalog and create a chain of custody for all evidence Here these officers broke into my client’s property handcuffed him and put him in the sun for several hours .
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland pressed the agency’s marijuana enforcement policy during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing in July.
As part of the fiscal year 2023 spending legislation for the interior, homeowners included language in the basic bill to protect Indian tribes from federal lawsuits simply because they legalized marijuana in their territory.
The language is somewhat similar to previous sections attached to various spending measures as amendments that pushed to give cannabis guarantees to tribes. However, the final section has contingencies never seen before, including a policy that tribes in states that have not legalized marijuana would not be covered by the protections.
Overall, the provision states that no federal funds allocated to agencies of the interior, the Department of Justice, the Bureau of Indian Affairs or the Bureau of Justice Services could be used to “enforce federal laws criminalizing the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of marijuana against any person”. engaged in the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of marijuana in Indian Country” where such activity is permitted.
But it’s not blanket protection, as the section goes on to say that the policy is “subject to” two exceptions.
First, federal funds could still be used to interfere with tribal cannabis activity if the territory is located in a state that maintains prohibition, for example. Indian tribes must also take “reasonable steps under tribal marijuana laws to ensure that marijuana is prohibited to minors; the marijuana is not diverted to states or tribes where marijuana is prohibited by state or tribal law; marijuana is not used as a means of trafficking other illegal products. drugs or used to support organized crime activities; and marijuana is not permitted on federal public lands. »
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