Washington: Native Americans Fight Marijuana Legalization On Tribal Land

WashingtonStateCededLandsYakamaNation

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Yakama Nation tribe of Native Americans is fighting the implementation of Washington state marijuana legalization law I-502 on ancestral land.

If the tribe has its way a large chunk of Washington will reject the new state law, reports RT.com.

The 10,000-member tribe has already said cannabis will remain illegal on about 1.2 million acres of reservation in central Washington, but the tribe is now considering "a bold move that could test the limits of tribal sovereignty" by trying to keep marijuana illegal on another 10.8 million acres of tribal land, Jonathan Kaminsky of Reuters reports.

The tribe ceded the latter lands under an 1855 treaty with the U.S. government, but retained hunting, food-gathering and fishing rights there.

"Marijuana is the biggest problem for our people up to age 40," claimed an amazingly clueless George Colby, who unfortunately seems to have talked the Yakama Nation into allowing him to (badly) represent them as an attorney. "It's a bigger problem than alcohol," he claimed, absolutely proving himself to be a bullshitting blowhard.

At least six local governments in the state are also trying to keep out marijuana businesses, even under legalization. Two of those lie on the Yakama's ceded lands, so they'll have allies in the tribe in their quixotic anti-pot fight.

The Yakama Nation has filed challenges to nearly 1,300 pending marijuana business applications on the ceded lands, spanning 10 counties. That represents 1,300 very pissed-off applicants if they learn they've wasted their application fees due to superstitious "reefer madness" fears trumping a democratic vote of the people.

The state Liquor Control Board will consider the tribe's concerns when issuing individual licenses, but Chris Marr, a member of the board, views the tribe's assertion of authority over ceded lands with skepticism.

"As far as requiring us to deny applications on all ceded lands, to me that seems to be quite a heavy lift," he said.

The Yakama Nation is desperately pointing at federal anti-marijuana laws in challenging legalization on ceded lands, where more than 600,000 non-Indians reside, and whose votes apparently shouldn't count, according to the tribe.

If an agreement isn't reached, Colby said the tribe will take an unprecedented assertion of authority over ceded lands by suing in federal court. It has never sought to block a state law from taking effect there.

"We are making this the test case," Colby said.

But the tribe should try to reach a settlement rather than heading into an extended court battle, according to Troy Eid, a former U.S. Attorney for Colorado who chairs a federal advisory panel for criminal justice issues on Native American lands.

"They ought to come to some voluntary agreement where each side reserves its arguments about sovereignty and its ability to make law, Eid said.

The tribe's demands put it in an awkward alliance with the cities of Yakima and Wenatchee, both of which are located on ceded land and have enacted their own pot bans over the objections of state regulators. Towns seeking to ban legal marijuan a boost from spineless Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson in January when he issued an opinion that cities and counties could ban pot within their borders.

But both towns appeared wary of acknowledging any assertions of Indian sovereignty. "When they start talking about ceded land, there's a lot of other things involved other than marijuana, like water rights," said Yakima city councilman Bill Lover, who is against pot businesses.

In an editorial published last year by the Seattle PI, Yakama Nation Chairman Harry Smiskin actually claimed "The citizens of the state of Washington do not have the authority to vote what happens on Yakama lands."

"It is that simple," the arrogant, pot-hating chairman proclaimed. "The Yakama Law and Order Code prohibit the sale, use or production of marijuana on the lands we control. We are constantly finding very sophisticated grows and ending them," he bragged. "Our police have won federal awards for this work." (Can you believe this guy? Proud of a pat on the head from federal authorities? A sad state this "Nation" has come to.)

"We are proud of our efforts," Smiskin claimed, making me feel embarrassed for him. "We do not want our people, or anyone else [emphasis added], to use, grow or sell marijuana on our lands."

"We have had a long and unpleasant history with marijuana," Smiskin lied, "just as we have had with alcohol. We fight them both on our lands."

So which rules Washington? A Democratic vote or assertions of special privilege? Stay tuned.

Graphic: The Province