VOICES: It’s Time to Move

Opinion By CLIFFORD LYLE MARSHALL

I write in response to the Times-Standard article, “DOJ says Indian tribes can grow and sell marijuana” (Dec. 12, 2014), the North Coast Journal article, “The Revolution Starts Here” (12/11/14), and in anticipation of the TRT’s coverage of this issue.  The Department of Justice decision that tribes can grow and sell cannabis as long as they follow the same federal conditions as laid out for states that have legalized cannabis is truly a game changer for Indian tribes and a tremendous economic opportunity for our tribal citizens.  I was disappointed in the knee jerk responses from the Hoopa and Yurok leadership, without giving a second thought to the economic opportunity that the tribes have been presented with.  Because of this response, I have submitted to the Election Board a petition that states:

“WE THE UNDERSIGNED members of the Hoopa Valley Tribe, and citizens of the Hoopa Nation,  hereby petition the Election Board to conduct a Referendum election to Repeal Title 34, The Marijuana Cultivation Suppression Ordinance in its entirety.

Title 34, the Marijuana Cultivation Suppression Ordinance, provides for the legal authorization to search and seize property, impose fines, and exclude tribal members from the reservation, for cultivation of marijuana. Federal law does not require tribes to adopt or enforce such an ordinance. Repealing Title 34 will have no legal effect on future federal funding, nor will it affect the tribe’s sovereign right to self-governance. The Department of Justice has declared that Indian tribes can legally grow marijuana in states that have legalized it for medicinal and/or recreational use.  California has legalized marijuana cultivation and use for medicinal purposes. Tribal members should not be subject to the threat of discriminatory prosecution and additional penalties by its government for the cultivation of  marijuana/cannabis on deeded or tribally assigned or leased land. Repeal of Title 34 will provide tribal members the right to make their own choices about medicinal use of marijuana, and the right to participate in a legal, state/county regulated, agricultural industry. Tribal timberlands will remain protected from trespass through enforcement of the Conservation/Trespass Ordinance, Title 15.”

We live in a poor community with a very weak economy.  We’ve survived on federal funding which only provides employment for 20 percent of the tribal population, if that.  The rest are forced to survive on welfare and meager services. There are no new jobs now or in the future for the ‘have nots’ or the homeless from federal funding or tribal government.  So before anyone condemns this opportunity, understand that the only thing now standing between true economic independence, and the opportunity for tribal citizens to earn a very good middle-class income from the sweat of their brow by farming the legal crop of cannabis, is Title 34,  the Marijuana Cultivation Suppression Ordinance. Marijuana has been the number one industry in Humboldt County for decades, and is the only thing that has kept towns like Willow Creek, Orleans, and other communities in Humboldt County alive. When Title 34 is repealed, citizen farmers will be able to legally sell their cash crop to dispensaries through a local cooperative without breaking the law or threat of arrest.

As to the comments made about protecting the environment, I accept that there has been some environmental degradation which, in my opinion, is overstated. I recall when we Indians were blamed for killing all the salmon back in the 70s, but we were exonerated by science which placed the blame on the dam diversion of water. Nothing that the marijuana gardens may have used is comparable to the hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water diverted to the Central Valley Project, and it does a disservice to the issue of environmental protection to simply blame a scapegoat. More than 50 percent of the Trinity is still diverted.  I would point out the our tribal water right has never been quantified, and we are legally entitled to Trinity River water for irrigation, a right we could use to argue for more water releases to the river.  These issues  make repealing Title 34  imperative to protecting our timberlands and our river.  Permitting our citizens to grow on their property eliminates the reason people grow in the mountains, which is to hide.  Legitimate farmers won’t have to hide if they can farm their own land.  For this economically depressed community, the decision of the DOJ is nothing less than providence.  If our council chooses to be “unmoved” then ‘We the People’ must move by petition to create this economic opportunity.

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