KESHENA, Wis. — Members of the Menominee Indian Tribe have endorsed the possible legalization of marijuana for medicinal and recreational use on their northeastern Wisconsin reservation, the tribe announced Friday.
In what tribal leaders called an advisory vote, about 77 percent of members voting said they backed medical marijuana. The vote was closer on recreational use, with about 58 percent of voting members saying yes.
Chairman Gary Besaw said tribal legislators will now study whether to move forward on both issues. He didn’t have a timetable for how quickly that might happen.
The Justice Department announced in 2014 it would let Indian tribes legalize and regulate marijuana, but most tribes have been reluctant to move forward with the new freedom for concern about possible public safety and health consequences. Besaw said the Menominee “have to be cautious.”
“This is all new ground we’re breaking,” Besaw said. “It’s hard to get definitive answers.”
Asked whether the tribe would consider commercial sales — selling marijuana to non-members — Besaw said only that the tribe would defer to the U.S. attorney’s office in Wisconsin in interpreting the Justice Department’s 2014 memorandum. In South Dakota, where the Flandreau Santee Sioux has announced plans to develop a pot-selling operation, the U.S. attorney has warned that non-Indians would be breaking the law if they consume pot on the reservation.
Greg Haanstad, the acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, had no comment, a spokeswoman said.
Besaw noted the easier vote on medicinal marijuana.
“People more clearly understand the benefit of medicinal marijuana,” Besaw said. “Even those who voted no on the recreational have said … we know there is value in medicinal marijuana and there clearly are individuals who benefit from it.”
Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, said in a statement he was disappointed in the tribe’s vote, saying eventual legalization could pose “serious challenges for law enforcement.”
About 13 percent of the tribe’s 9,000 members cast ballots.
The possibility comes on the heels of the tribe’s unsuccessful effort to open a casino in Kenosha.
TULALIP, Wash. (AP) — Tribal representatives from around the country are converging in Washington state to discuss the risks and rewards of marijuana legalization.
Tribes have been wrestling with the issue since the U.S. Justice Department announced in December that it wouldn’t stand in their way if they want to approve pot for medical or recreational use. The agency said tribes must follow the same law enforcement priorities laid out for states that legalize the drug.
Representatives of dozens of tribes are attending a conference Friday at the Tulalip Indian Tribe’s resort and casino north of Seattle.
Topics under discussion include the big business potential for pot, as well as concerns about substance abuse on reservations and the potential creation of a tribal cannabis association.
Tuesday will be the first day that Washington stores can legally sell recreational marijuana. Even though the state has been preparing for this day for nearly two years since it passed Initiative 502, it still could be unclear to some people exactly what the rules surrounding pot are.
Here are some answers to the biggest questions that will arise when pot officially goes on sale this week:
Who can buy marijuana and how much can they possess?
Adults who can legally buy marijuana can purchase up to 1 ounce of plant material or 72 ounces of marijuana-infused liquid, such as oils. It’s also legal to buy as much as 16 ounces of edible pot products, such as cookies or brownies, but officials at the state Liquor Control Board say no vendors in the state have yet obtained all of the licenses necessary to sell edibles — so, they won’t be in stores initially.
Of the nearly 200 stores in Seattle that applied for a license, only one — Cannabis City — received approval Monday morning. State officials say that’s because many stores there simply failed to meet licensing requirements in time. Customers near Puget Sound will also have options available in Bellevue and Tacoma. Elsewhere in the state, stores could open as soon as Tuesday in Bellingham, Kelso and Spokane. The full list of retailers who received the state’s first licenses is available online.
This is an area where it’d be easy for marijuana users to run afoul of the law. I-502 makes it illegal to consume pot in public view. That means no visits to nearby parks, no smoking in your vehicle, and definitely no sampling product inside a marijuana retailer. The Seattle Police Department gives a good rule of thumb and describes it like open alcohol container laws. Basically, don’t use pot anywhere you’re not specifically allowed to do so. You may not get arrested just for public consumption, but you can receive a fine.
Will legal marijuana be cheaper than stuff on the black market?
No, at least not initially. Supply is still pretty limited in the state, which means that demand — aka prices at the register — are probably going to be steep.
So, what kind of prices can users expect in the early days? That’s likely to vary from store to store. Ramsey Hamide, manager of Main Street Marijuana in Vancouver, told the Columbian he expects initial prices on their shelves to be “maybe $90 to $100 for a 4-gram bag and $45 to $50 for a 2-gram bag.”
But Hamide also said he expects those prices to go down to near street costs in the weeks and months after the first sales as growers throughout the state begin to meet demand.
Does I-502 change state DUI laws?
It’s still illegal to drive while under the influence of marijuana or any other intoxicant. If you get pulled over by an officer, they can conduct a field sobriety test on you to see if you’re intoxicated. Because there aren’t yet any fancy tools — such as a Breathalyzer for alcohol — to figure out if you’re high, the officers can take you back to the station and seek your permission for a blood test if they think you’re driving high. That goes for medical marijuana too. And if a driver gets in an accident while driving high, those blood tests are mandatory.