The Minnesota Department of Revenue is trying to snuff out the sale of cigarettes unstamped by the state. After a shipment of tribally stamped cigarettes was seized by Minnesota Department of Revenue agents earlier this month, the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe is now responding to the incident, saying the state is trying to stamp out tribal sovereignty.
The controversy started when the Department of Revenue seized almost 3,000 packs of Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe tribally stamped cigarettes because they were not stamped by the state. Currently, there is a tax agreement between the state and the band to share state cigarette taxes collected on and by the reservation. The tribe began selling tribally regulated cigarettes when the state didn’t share the excise tax consisting of the health impact fee. Chairwoman Carri Jones says the state is now sharing the health impact fee and realizes what they were “doing wrongfully to the tribe.”
Minnesota law requires businesses to purchase cigarettes from licensed distributors, proving that they are paying Minnesota’s cigarette taxes. The Department of Revenue says the sale of cigarettes unstamped by the state is unfair to distributors and businesses who comply with the law. Assistant Commissioner for Business Taxes Keith Getschel said that the Department of Revenue’s goal is to have a fair market in Minnesota.
Chairwoman Carri Jones says the US Constitution, treaties, and federal case law prove that the state cannot regulate on-reservation activities, and views the seizure as an attack on the band’s rights. Jones said, “It comes down to a sovereignty issue with us trying to provide our own economic development on our reservation and to governance ourselves.”
Both parties hop that open communication and discussion will help them reach a compromise in the future.