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Tribal council places pot referendum on ballot

The Chronicle

— Colville tribal voters will decide in June whether tribal code should parallel state law concerning recreational use of marijuana.

The Colville Business Council, in an 11-0 vote, adopted a resolution to include a non-binding referendum vote on the June 13 general election ballot. Voters also will decide who will fill seven council seats.

The referendum vote will ask voters whether the tribe should amend its laws to more closely parallel the laws of the state as implemented after passage of Initiative 502 in 2012. The initiative allows recreational use of marijuana by adults under certain circumstances.

Tribal officials said the vote will guide the council in determining the community’s wishes.

Marijuana use and possession currently is illegal under the reservation, which operates under federal rules. The federal government has said it will not pursue prosecution of people in Washington and Colorado who are abiding by those states’ marijuana laws.

“This issue has the potential to affect our community in long-term and meaningful ways, and (the council) feel that it is necessary to give the membership an opportunity to weigh in on the issue before we make any decisions either for or against,” council Chairman Jim Boyd said.

“We respect and value the fact that each and every member of the community has a story to tell regarding whether or not they support marijuana, and this affords us an opportunity to at least gauge whether folks view this issue in a positive or negative light.”

Pamphlets are being developed for distribution to tribal members to offer information and opinion both in favor and against the proposed referendum.

“I anticipate that since the state’s passage of I-502, most tribal members have an opinion on the issue, but we want to ensure that the membership feels informed and makes the decision that is right for them” Boyd said.

Initiative 502 passed statewide with a 55.7 percent yes vote. Okanogan County voters also said yes, 51.4 percent, as did 51.05 percent of Ferry County voters.

The reservation straddles Okanogan and Ferry counties.


KAnderson 3 years, 6 months ago

Until the US Government decriminalizes marijuana I question the value of such a vote. As is, Tribal decriminalization would be confusing as it would put Tribal and US Codes at odds. As long as the Tribal land is designated as "held in Trust by the US Government", the federal laws outlawing possession, cultivation, or sale of marijuana will stand, given that federal law enforcement has jurisdiction upon those lands. It seems that it would be prudent to hold off on such a vote or statute change until the likely federal decriminalization of marijuana is fact.

Unless the CTPD oath of office has changed, it includes among other requirements swearing to enforce federal law. Federal statutes would be applicable to anyone on trust land. The CTPD would therefore be expected to enforce them. Historically non-Indians committing crimes on the Colville Reservation were charged in state court under comparable state statutes for violation of federal law in Okanogan and Ferry Counties.

It would be interesting to see what happens if a non-indian is arrested on Trust land for a violation of the Federal statute for marijuana possession when that person could legally have used the marijuana on fee land or the state highway.


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