Slog Music

Music, Nightlife,
and Drinks

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Not All Tribal Leaders Are "Alarmed" by the Idea of Pot on Native Lands

Posted by on Wed, Aug 24, 2011 at 3:27 PM


The splashy cover story in today's Times concerns pot cultivation on tribal lands and how everyone in Indian Country is apparently "alarmed" by this. The story trots out the usual drug-war tropes: guns, mystery Mexicans, cluck-clucking from law enforcement and local politicians.

You wouldn't know it from the Times story, but not all tribal members are "alarmed" about the possibility of growing pot on reservation land. In fact, some native leaders are cautiously exploring the idea of adding marijuana cultivation to tribal portfolios, alongside gambling, fireworks, and other business enterprises that have a competitive advantage (both legal and economic) when conducted on sovereign Indian lands. (And let's not jump to conclusions: Just because a Mexican national was found next to this marijuana farm, it doesn't mean that nobody on the reservation had anything to do with—or derived any financial benefit from—the operation.)

One of the leading voices on this issue is Gabe Galanda, who practices law in Seattle (not far from the Times offices—cough, cough) and is an enrolled member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes in California. He wrote an essay on the subject earlier this year. Here's a sample passage: "Indian Country has the sovereignty, land base, agricultural savvy, and business intangibles to really make legalized marijuana happen. For some rural tribes, those attributes are all they have to leverage economically."

Dear journalists everywhere: Next time you plan a big cover story on pot in Indian Country, give him a call.


Comments (12) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Sir Vic 1
While I agree that the Times tends to do biased stories on the subject, the type of grow operation they detail is the kind that any tribal leader would condemn. It destroys the land. I'm not an expert on native cultures, but "destroying the land" just might be #1 on their list of crimes.

If tribes were to get involved in an organized fashion, they certainly wouldn't do it by carving up and polluting pristine forests. Galanda is talking about the legal & economic aspects, not the environmental.
Posted by Sir Vic on August 24, 2011 at 3:53 PM · Report this
Where I grew up there were some people illicitly growing pot. When it was discovered due to one party of a local feud tipping off the DEA, there was a bust and false arrest and subterfuge and community discord, etc.

So this sentence: "You wouldn't know it from the Times story, but not all tribal members are "alarmed" about the possibility of growing pot on reservation land." misses the mark. If some members didn't know what was going on, that (depending on the size of land involved, and how close knit the community is) can be a big problem.

If it's legalized, fine. If it's illegal but community as a whole knows what's going on, fine. But not when the growers have to defend the property and information about the property. Not when it gives the DEA an excuse to carry out busts. Not when the community doesn't know where it's unsafe to let kids go, or when they'll be harassed or searched in conjunction with an investigation.
Posted by tychotesla on August 24, 2011 at 3:54 PM · Report this
Fnarf 3
The funniest thing about the article was all the graphs showing that pot growing in every Washington county and every reservation has declined precipitously in the past couple of years. The peak was in 2008.
Posted by Fnarf on August 24, 2011 at 4:04 PM · Report this
Geni 4
@8 - The Seattle Times - Retroactive Panic 4 U!
Posted by Geni on August 24, 2011 at 4:55 PM · Report this
Geni 5
@8? Try @3. Jesus, I wish Slog comments could be edited...
Posted by Geni on August 24, 2011 at 4:55 PM · Report this
lauramae 6
So because Gabe Galanda wrote on the issue of pot and Gabe is American Indian, Brendan Kiley assumes then that there is likely "buy in" from tribes for the presence of armed pot growers on their reservations. Because you know, Indians are all of one mind. We all think the same way. Agree on everything that each other says and never have differences of opinion or viewpoint.

I'm sure that Yakama tribal members, going up into areas on Mt. Adams on their own lands, thrill at the possibility of happening upon some Mexican thug squatting on their land with weapons for a chance to profit off the weed.

Posted by lauramae on August 24, 2011 at 6:40 PM · Report this
Just for the record. in comment #2 I did not mean to imply I'm a member of a tribe. But I grew up in a rural area with a sense of community, and I assume the same issues that applied to us would apply to others.
Posted by tychotesla on August 24, 2011 at 7:41 PM · Report this
@ 5. No, I didn't assume "likely 'buy in'" from tribes. What I wrote was:

"... some native leaders are cautiously exploring the idea of adding marijuana cultivation to tribal portfolios."

"Some native leaders are cautiously exploring the idea" is way, way different from "Indians are all of one mind."
Posted by Brendan Kiley on August 24, 2011 at 8:30 PM · Report this
Is a Native American with a law degree automatically considered a native leader?
Posted by Hutch on August 24, 2011 at 9:34 PM · Report this
Tribes may be sovereign nations, but they are still subject to FEDERAL laws, and marijuana is still against federal law. They police themselves, make their own laws, on their own land, on the smaller things. But when it comes to federal crimes, the federal government of the US steps in. They're treading into very sticky (sweet and stanky-dank) territory. I'd like to see it legalized, though. But unless they enter into an agreement with the feds (like they do with other things under federal jurisdiction---fireworks, cigarettes, gambling, etc), they're running a high risk of the feds coming down on them.
Posted by cattycat on August 25, 2011 at 1:48 AM · Report this
@ 9. No. He just articulated a position that some leaders are considering.

@ 10. True. But some recent court decisions regarding tobacco and commerce on sovereign lands, plus the general pattern of federal raids on pot farms (as opposed to local law-enforcement behavior), leads some tribal-law folks to believe that there's enough legal grey area to allow it to work.

It's all iffy. But there's possibility. Mostly, I'm objecting to the article's characterization of "tribes" as being universally "alarmed" by the idea of pot farms on reservation land. That's just not the case—there's a vast spectrum of opinion and debate on the matter.
Posted by Brendan Kiley on August 25, 2011 at 2:32 PM · Report this
@8 by some you mean 1 and by tribal leader you mean community member. A tribal leader is someone who is on council or officially represents the community by a vote. We had this problem a while back with people confusing community members with leaders and we ended up with some bad treaties as a result. maybe we still need to work on clarifying this issue.
Posted by jiberish on August 25, 2011 at 2:36 PM · Report this

Add a comment


Want great deals and a chance to win tickets to the best shows in Seattle? Join The Stranger Presents email list!

All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC
1535 11th Ave (Third Floor), Seattle, WA 98122
Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Takedown Policy