The Puyallup Tribe joins ranks with the Squaxin Island and Suquamish Tribes by signing a compact with the State of Washington to engage in Washington’s marijuana industry. This time though the Puyallup Tribe is not going for the production, processing, or retailing of marijuana; the Tribe is going to be a marijuana testing facility (for now).

Photo by Edward Curtis, of tribal leaders
     Edward Curtis photo of tribal leaders

The Tribe recently purchased the Trans-Pacific Trade Center at 3700 Pacific Highway E. in the City of Fife with plans to convert this building into a cancer-treatment center. The Tribe’s lab (which will join the 14 other state-certified testing labs) will be owned and operated by PTOI Testing Lab, Inc., which will offer “safety and potency tests to holders of state marijuana licenses, among others.” Other clients could include universities conducting scientific research on marijuana. Rather than pursuing recreational marijuana economic development, the Puyallup Tribe is highly focused on developing medical marijuana.

Under the compact (a copy of which can be found at the bottom of this article), PTOI Testing Lab, Inc. is authorized to do only one thing: “operation of a commercial testing lab that will for a fee conduct scientific and safety testing services for substances including cannabis.” The compact also mandates that the Tribe will meet existing certified testing criteria, testing traceability, and quality assurance testings standards as set forth in WAC 314-55-102 and 103, and it will submit to state inspections pending a head’s up to Tribal police beforehand.

The compact mentions nothing about the Puyallup Tribe engaging in the production, processing, and/or retailing of cannabis. And though the Suquamish and Squaxin Island compacts make concessions for the Tribes’ commercial medical marijuana activity, no such liberties are currently listed in the Puyallup compact. Specifically, the Suquamish and Squaxin Island compacts allow those Tribes to sell medical cannabis in concert with medical treatment on their tribal lands without assessing any tribal tax (unless the Tribes opt to implement one). Nonetheless, the Puyallup compact stipulates that:

The Parties anticipate that they will later amend this Compact to add other elements of the broader subject area of marijuana to the agreement, in order to ensure a lawful and well-regulated marijuana market, encourage economic development in Indian Country, and provide fiscal benefits to both the Tribe and the State.

Ultimately, the Puyallup compact leaves the door open for the Tribe to later seek to incorporate provisions regarding the cultivation, processing, and/or retailing of cannabis. Though it has been a mixed bag for Tribes regarding federal intervention with tribal marijuana in states that have no or very loose state marijuana regulations, thus far those Washington Tribes that have signed compacts with the State of Washington haven’t had any issues with Big Brother. The main question for Washington Tribes continues to be what happens with the Feds if a Tribe goes outside the state compact system to set up its own marijuana regime? We have yet to find out.

For more on the development of tribal marijuana, check out the following: