Earlier this week I did a post bringing attention to the State-Tribal Relations interim committee meeting that was held yesterday. I had the opportunity to actually listen to the committee meeting and was pleased to discover that the recreation pot lounge being implemented by the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe (FSST) was a major topic of discussion. This is a topic I’ve meant to blog about for some time, and this gave me the perfect opportunity. This post just highlights some things said during the meeting.
Sen Jim Bradford (D, Dist 27) was the first I heard speak about the lounge in Flandreau. He had spoken with Rep Elizabeth May (R, Dist 27) about the lounge. Bradford passed on a report of what the tribe is trying to do. Most notable is that the tribe is not trying to put pot on the street. Rather Bradford noted “it is a business and it is being run like a business”. I really think more legislators, especially those involved with tribal relations, should have made the effort to tour the FSST lounge.
22-42-15. Ingesting substance, except alcoholic beverages, for the purpose of becoming intoxicated as misdemeanor–Venue for violation. Any person who intentionally ingests, inhales, or otherwise takes into the body any substance, except alcoholic beverages as defined in § 35-1-1, for purposes of becoming intoxicated, unless such substance is prescribed by a practitioner of the medical arts lawfully practicing within the scope of the practitioner’s practice, is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. The venue for a violation of this section exists in either the jurisdiction in which the substance was ingested, inhaled, or otherwise taken into the body or the jurisdiction in which the substance was detected in the body of the accused.
Bordeaux noted that if someone goes into the lounge in Flandreau and leaves the reservation that they would be breaking the ingestion law. He said if other states have had success with legalizing medical marijuana, which they have, that FSST should also be successful. He went on to say “the tribes are as broke as our counties”. This could be an economic development program for the tribes. Finally he mentioned the mafia didn’t come to the state, which was the argument used to try keeping casinos off the reservations.
The Office of the Attorney Generals was on hand to speak. Charlie McGuigan, Chief Deputy Attorney General, and Kirsten Jasper, Appellate Division. Jasper is involved with tribal jurisdictional issues.
Jasper said that marijuana is illegal both at the state and federal level. She said the state would have jurisdiction over any non-Indian whether they are on the reservation or not; further the state would have jurisdiction over any tribal member once they leave the reservation. Jasper also noted that anyone that has THC in their blood or urine is in violation of the ingestion law. There is no legal level of THC for ingestion, any level is considered illegal. Sen Bradford asked how many states have an ingestion law. Jasper said she thought SD was the only one. In my research I haven’t been able to find any other states with a similar law.
Bradford then (in a roundabout way) asked if the AG’s office would be pulling people over leaving the reservation. Jasper said normal probable cause still would have to be followed. But she did not rule out law enforcement being at the border waiting to catch people.
Rep Bordeaux said the FSST is starting this undertaking because the Feds came out with a document saying such facilities operated by tribes would not be prosecuted under federal law. The document apparently said the tribal land will be treated like states that have already legalized medical marijuana. But he did note that a tribe near the Great Lakes was pursued for growing industrial hemp. I believe Bordeaux was referring to the DEA going after the Menominee Indian Tribe.
There was then some more discussion about jurisdiction. The most interesting part was McGuigan stating:
Because the use of drugs is a victim-less crime, the state would have jurisdiction over that.
Notice how the AG’s office called this a victim-less crime. Such an admission from the AG’s office should help make the case that the current law is not in place to protect anyone.
There were also a couple of FSST members that came to give testimony and answer questions for the committee. The two speaking were Ryan Kills-a-Hundred and Kenny Weston, both listed as Executive Committee members on the FSST website. Both were in attendance to answer any questions the committee had.
Kills-a-Hundred confirmed the tribe received a memorandum from the federal government that the program would be OK as long as certain requirements were maintained. He noted this was purely looked at as an economic development program and was not done lightly. The recreational pot lounge will not be a way for marijuana to get out into the community, like can happen in Colorado.
Kills-a-Hundred also mentioned that the Iowa casino hurt the FSST pretty hard financially. He said the tribe likes to be self-sufficient and doesn’t like to beg for money. The recreational pot lounge is a means to help the tribe remain self-sufficient.
Rep Bordeaux mentioned he wanted to see fairness from the state in this situation. He doesn’t see the state going after cars from Colorado, but has fears people leaving Flandreau will be targeted. Bordeaux asked how the tribe will deal with that, and what the state can do to help.
The reply from Weston was that sometimes the former PD would already target the customers of the casino (FSST recently went to its own PD). That point wasn’t expanded upon as much I wished it would be. But there is a lot of whispering (rumors) that patrons of the lounge will be targeted to show the state is tough on drugs.
Weston mentioned the tribe will be tracking the containers that go to customers. Kills-a-Hundred also added this is not really a resort, but more of a lounge (hence the reason I’ve been using the word lounge throughout this post). There will be security on site and cameras going at all times. Other security measures have also been taken to protect the customers and make sure no other illegal activity occurs. He believes they will be more strict with policies and measures taken than any other bar in the state.
Kills-a-Hundred made it quite clear this lounge does not legalize marijuana on all of the tribal lands. This new lounge will not permit tribe member to grow or use marijuana at their homes. Any activity outside of the lounge will be treated as is always has been.
I’ll end the post here. The whole committee meeting is worth listening to. But I think what was mentioned above is a good starting point to talk about the new recreational pot lounge in Flandreau. I’m hoping this fall some legislators will try another attempt to tour the facility, if that happens I would like to tour with them.