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Montana Reservations Mull Over Legalizing Medical Marijuana

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Montana's medical marijuana industry has skyrocketed--the number of licensed patients grew from about 2,000 to approximately 28,000 within two years.

While the drug remains illegal on Montana's seven Indian reservations, the state still hands out medical marijuana cards to tribal members with a doctor's approval, reported greatfallstribune.com.

Now, some tribal members are pushing to add legalizing marijuana to tribal ballots. Wesley Main Sr., former prosecutor and public defender, who does not use medical marijuana or have any intentions to use it, wants to put the issue to vote on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation. "I do know people who are going through cancer treatment and do need this stuff," he told the newspaper. "Our people could end up in the penitentiary and be put away for a long time."

While the sovereign nations can set their own laws, Vice Chairman of the Chippewa Cree Tribe Bruce Sunchild said tribes need to follow federal law because they rely heavily on federal funding.

"As long as we need federal funding, we can't allow medical marijuana on the reservation," he told greatfallstribune.com.

Still, according to FBI spokeswoman Debbie Dujanovic, medical marijuana users on reservations will not be prosecuted under federal law. Dujanovic told the greatfallstribune.com that federal agents who respond to felony crimes on Montana's reservations are not pursuing criminal charges against medical marijuana patients.

"We are looking at major grow operations, sale to minors and transportation of drugs across borders," Dujanovic said. "Those are the types of things that would draw federal interest. As for medical marijuana use, the tribal police can respond as they see fit."

But, interestingly, different free usage zones apply to tribal and nontribal members. "Nontribal members who live on the reservation can use medical marijuana on the reservation while patients who are tribal members can use medical marijuana only off the reservation," states the newspaper.

Last year, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes considered the medical marijuana policy on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Ultimately, the tribes consulted cultural committees that said marijuana was not part of the tribes' histories, according to Spokesman Robert McDonald.

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