Tribes move ahead with cannabis project

The membership voted in favor of the cannabis referendum by a margin of 1,252 in favor, to 198 against. The number of votes—a total of 1,450—was more than enough for a valid referendum.

The referendum saw the largest participation by voters in a Confederated Tribes referendum, said Lynn Davis, tribal administrative director. The turnout was high despite the snowy weather during the first part of the day.

Tribal Council approved the referendum results by resolution on Friday morning, Dec. 18. The Council thanked the Warm Springs Ventures board and staff for their work on the project. And they thanked all those who volunteered during the election process, and all those who voted.

Compared to other elections, the cannabis referendum saw many younger tribal member voters, said Beulah Tsumpti, chair of the Election Board.

Participation by the younger membership—both at the polling booths, and in helping to get out the vote—was a welcome development, said Council Chairman Austin Greene Jr.

This may give young people the incentive to vote in future tribal decisions, as they see the power of their vote and the ability to make change, said Don Sampson, Ventures chief executive director.

The result—86.3 percent in favor, to 13.7 against—gives Tribal Council and Ventures a clear mandate to pursue the project. And the next steps in the process are also clear, Sampson said.

For instance, the state legislature will have to correct a law that currently precludes tribal participation in the state’s cannabis production industry. Legislators are supportive of the change, and are expected to act in February to make the correction, Sampson said.

From the start of the cannabis project discussion, Ventures and Council have kept federal and state officials updated and involved.

With the referendum question now settled, the tribes will be working in more detail with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the BIA, and the appropriate state officials.

Ventures is scheduled to meet with Tribal Council on January 5 for further discussion of the next steps in the process. The plan for now calls for construction of the facility during the summer, with the initial product sales happening in about a year, Sampson said.

The tribes are at the forefront of this kind of project, made possible by the legalization of cannabis in the state of Oregon.

“Too often we study these things until the opportunity has passed,” Councilman Carlos Smith said. This time, though, he said, “I’m glad to see we acted in timely way.”

The idea is so new that the tribes will be making precedents as the project goes along. The federal response will be a key question.
The tribes really are just asking to be treated equally, said Councilmen Reuben Henry.

The people of the state of Oregon voted to legalize marijuana, and federal officials are respecting that decision, Councilman Moses said. Now the people of the Confederated Tribes have voted, and the same rule should apply, he said.

Councilman Kahseuss Jackson, and Councilwoman Evaline Patt commended Ventures, the volunteers and tribal voters for their participation in the referendum.