The U.S. Department of Justice has signaled it would not stand in the way of Native American tribes who may seek to legalize marijuana use or cultivation.
Federal prosecutors will instead focus on priorities like keeping marijuana out of the hands of minors and out of states in which marijuana use is not legal, the department said in a memo released on Thursday.
The memo, sent from Justice Department headquarters to U.S. attorney’s offices around the country, said some tribes had requested guidance on the federal drug law.
In a statement, the agency said that some tribes have explored decriminalizing marijuana within their reservations. Many others have expressed concerns about whether the legalization of marijuana in their states could compound alcohol problems on their reservations.
The new guidance builds on a related memo the Justice Department issued in August 2013 that listed eight priorities that law enforcement would focus on in enforcing federal drug laws after several states moved to legalize marijuana.
The new memo makes clear that the earlier guidance also applies to prosecutions of crimes in Indian territory, but also says that each U.S. Attorney will assess threats specific to their districts.
(Reporting by Aruna Viswanatha; Editing by Doina Chiacu)