Talking Pot, Cannabis, Marijuana and Flowers in Hoopa

Jack Norton (center) was recently appointed by the Hoopa Valley Tribal Council as a political advisor on marijuana issues./Photo by Allie Hostler, Two Rivers Tribune.

Jack Norton (center) was recently appointed by the Hoopa Valley Tribal Council as a political advisor on marijuana issues./Photo by Allie Hostler, Two Rivers Tribune.

By ALLIE HOSTLER, Two Rivers Tribune

A citizen initiative to repeal the Hoopa Valley Tribe’s Title 34 slated for the April 28 primary election ballot has conversations at council, community and kitchen tables on the rise.

Title 34, adopted by the tribe in 1999 in response to California’s Compassionate Use Act, bans the cultivation of marijuana on the reservation for any purpose.

Former tribal chairman, Lyle Marshall is leading the citizen initiative to repeal Title 34. He held a meeting last Tuesday, March 10 in Hoopa where tribal members were introduced to the campaign and its rationale; to improve economic opportunity for tribal members; and to be proactive in marijuana cultivation regulation efforts during a time of impending legalization.

About half the states in the nation have legalized medicinal marijuana and four states—Alaska, Oregon, Washington and Colorado have legalized marijuana for recreational use. California is expected to follow suit in 2016 when an initiative will likely be on the state ballot.

The citizen initiative came about shortly after the U.S. Department of Justice released a memorandum that loosens federal policy on enforcement efforts on tribal lands should federally recognized choose to allow cultivation.

The legal weight of the memorandum continues to be up for reasonable interpretive debate. Some believe it holds little to no legal teeth when tribal lands are concerned while others believe it signals an increasingly relaxing approach to federal marijuana cultivation suppression efforts in response to the domino effect of legalization sweeping across the nation.

Earlier the same day, the Hoopa Valley Tribal Council spent several hours in their chambers discussing the same issues but from a legally strategic and fiduciary perspective.

“The Hoopa Valley Tribal Council is currently considering all implications of cannabis on tribal lands. The Department of Justice’s memo regarding cannabis has not changed marijuana from an illegal drug, but instead only limited federal enforcement priorities of that drug. At the federal level, marijuana is an illegal substance which poses many challenges to the tribe, including many possible social, legal and economic effects,” Vice Chairman Wendy George, wrote in a statement. “The Tribal Council is working diligently to evaluate all of the potential impacts the repeal would have to their community and ensure that voters have the materials necessary to make and educated decision.”

Marshall says regulations will eventually be inevitable and that neighboring communities are working proactively with Humboldt County to bring cannabis cultivation into the sunlight by developing a cannabis land-use ordinance that sustains the county’s economy and environmental integrity.

“We can’t even begin to have those conversations here until Title 34 is gone,” Marshall said. “I encourage the tribal council to talk to the Fifth District Supervisor and California Cannabis Voice (CCVH) Humboldt. They need to at least look at what is happening at the county level.”

The tribe recently announced that they appointed Jack Norton as a political advisor on the subject. Norton attended both the tribal council’s meeting as well as the community meeting led by Marshall last Tuesday.

“I recommended that they [the tribal council] develop strategic relationships with groups that are doing similar things. CCVH, for example,” Norton said.

CCVH presented their draft cannabis land use ordinance to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors in late February and brought a standing room only crowd to its feet with applause an oratory about legitimizing, regulating and taxing an industry that accounts for roughly half the county’s total $5 billion economy.

Marshall admits that many grey areas remain, such as Housing and Urban Development (HUD) rules, and land zoning and parcel issues. But, he said, repealing Title 34 will kick start those discussions.

“Presently, the Hoopa Valley Tribal Council has not taken a position for or against the repeal,” George said. “The tribal council is working toward a decision that is in the best interest of all tribal members, not simply those that hope to profit from such an enterprise.”

CCVH expects to have a near-complete draft for the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors to consider by the end of March or early April.

KIDE 91.3 FM is hosting a live call-in radio broadcast on Friday, March 20 from 3-6 p.m. (530) 625-4245.

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