Yurok Tribe passes Hemp Ordinance, allowing for sale and manufacture on tribal land

The Yurok Tribal Council voted to approve a Hemp Ordinance Thursday, May 9.

According to tribal officials, the Hemp Ordinance calls for the development of a plan to regulate the manufacture of hemp products on tribal lands. With the passage of the new law, the tribe will also soon consider engaging in the market for organic, non-psychoactive hemp products. The tribe says if it opts to participate in hemp commerce, the decision will be made with input from members.

“The Yurok Hemp Ordinance is a reflection of our inherent sovereignty and capacity to self-govern. It affords us the ability to better determine our collective destiny as a tribe,” Joseph L. James, the Chairman of the Yurok Tribe said. “We see hemp as a potential vehicle to diversify our economy and create jobs for our people.”

If the Tribe chooses to participate in the hemp industry, all activities will be governed by a substantial set of existing resource protection and tribal hiring preference ordinances. These laws include: the Tribal Employment Rights, Cultural Protection, Genetically Engineered Organism, Water Pollution and Pesticide Ordinances.

“We did a tremendous amount of due diligence before making this decision. I voted for the ordinance because it creates another avenue for us to grow our economy in a way that is consistent with our values,” Mindy Natt, the Pecwan District Representative on the Yurok Tribal Council.

According to stipulations in the Farm Bill, the Tribe would have had to cede regulatory control to the state, which runs counter to Tribal sovereignty and self-governance, if it had not passed the Hemp Ordinance.

The Tribal Council has decided to carefully contemplate the development of hemp-related business opportunities, as a means of diversifying the Tribe’s economic portfolio and generating revenue that can be used to build programs to serve all Yurok people. “We are looking at hemp as a gateway to getting our people employed, to providing our elders with a safe method of managing pain and to helping local residents overcome opioid addiction,” Edward “Horse” Aubrey, the Yurok Tribal Council’s North District representative said.

“With this ordinance in place, any entity wanting to do business within Yurok country must adhere to our laws regarding cultural and natural resource protection. This ordinance will allow the Tribe to explore the full extent of sovereignty within our territory by developing our regulatory authority and our own tax base that can be used to improve our communities and create prosperity,” concluded Toby Vanlandingham, the Yurok Tribal Council’s Weitchpec District Representative.

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