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Cannabis Meeting at LCO Discusses Federal Changes and Future Planning

Updated: Jul 1

By Joe Morey

News Editor

Thi Le, LCO Cannabis Consultant

The LCO Tribe played host to the Chippewa Federation and the Inter-Tribal Cannabis Task Force meetings at the Sevenwinds Casino Conference Center in May, with various tribal leadership attending from throughout the region.

Thi Le, cannabis consultant for Lac Courte Oreilles, provided a report to the Chippewa Federation leaders following the task force meeting. She said the WI Inter-Tribal Cannabis Task Force is an unofficial gathering of Tribes within the state of WI to explore a collaborative approach to cannabis legalization, business, operations, and supply chain.

The meeting at LCO was the second meeting of the group and that they plan to start meeting on a monthly basis with the next meeting planned for Menominee Nation.

Tribes in attendance included Lac Courte Oreilles, Lac Du Flambeau, Menominee, Red Cliff, Sokaogon Chippewa, St. Croix, and Stockbridge Munsee. Also in attendance was Rob Pero of the Indigenous Cannabis Industry Association (ICIA).

One of the main topics of discussion was a report from Pero that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) plans to move marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III, which doesn’t change the legalization of marijuana, but acknowledges the medical application of cannabis. It creates a pathway for FDA-approved drugs containing marijuana to be manufactured and sold.

“It also allows cannabis companies to write off expenses related to their business operations which is currently prohibited by Internal Revenue Code 280E,” Pero reported.

In Thi Le’s report, she states that on May 16, 2024 Biden announced that the DOJ will reschedule cannabis from a Schedule I to III and that, in her opinion, rescheduling does not directly benefit Tribal cannabis business, but could potentially catalyze legalization in WI for medical use.

“Any change to the status of marijuana via the DEA rulemaking process would not take effect immediately. According to reports, the proposal will be reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget and will then be subject to public comment.”

She noted the change could potentially expand medical products and access.

Thi Le reported to the tribal leaders at the Federation meeting that time is of the essence and there are many things that can be worked on right now including decriminalizing cannabis on Tribal lands. She noted the Ho-Chunk Nation removed marijuana from their criminal code on April 30, 2024.

She went on to recommend Tribes conduct a comprehensive cannabis feasibility study to assess the best suited cannabis operations (especially those that can be started in hemp) and that Tribes should draft codes for cannabis regulation, medical programs, and operations.

“As a collective body, Tribes should explore infrastructure, engagement, and operation of the cannabis task force; strategy to approach state legislators and departments; strategy to build rapport with local/county government, residents, and law enforcement officials,” Le said.

LCO Secretary-Treasurer Bill Trepanier, who has been representing LCO at inter-tribal cannabis meetings, said he believes LCO's cannabis project represents a significant step forward for the community.

"This initiative promises to bring substantial economic growth, creating job opportunities and generating revenue that will be reinvested into vital social programs," Trepanier said. "Additionally, it offers us a pathway to greater self-sufficiency and health benefits through regulated medicinal use. I wholeheartedly agree with the initiative that our consultant, Thi Le, has presented. By embracing this project, we are not only honoring our entrepreneurial spirit but also paving the way for a healthier, more prosperous future for all members of our reservation."

Michael Decorah, Inter-Tribal Governmental Relations for the St. Croix Tribe, said there will likely be a series of lobbying efforts with state legislators before and during the 2025-26 legislative session.

“We should strategize the best way to approach this independently or in a coordinated inter-Tribal effort,” Decorah said.

Deocorah reported St. Croix is exploring converting brown sites to bright sites using industrial hemp as a phytoremediator, aquaculture, processing capacity, and a testing facility.

Thi Le said LCO just finished up a feasibility study and will evaluate the best options for moving forward in the cannabis industry. The study was a comprehensive overview of which operations are well suited for LCO in the industry and as a partner for other Tribes in an Indigenously-integrated cannabis network (supply chain).

On a final note, Thi Le reported that banking options for cannabis business are available but sparse.

“This could be a great opportunity for Tribal banks to support Tribal cannabis businesses,” Thi Le stated.


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