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The article “Tribe to vote again on hemp, pot” (Times-Standard, May 1, Page A1) was one of the most dishonest pieces of journalism that I’ve seen in many years. Councilwoman Vivienna Orcutt gave you only half the story, in a very deceitful way, leaving out all the pertinent facts.

On June 18, 2018, less than a year ago, the Hoopa Tribal membership petitioned for, and voted to repeal Title 34, the Marijuana Cultivation Prohibition Ordinance, originally adopted by the Tribal Council in 1999. The referendum ballot that successfully repealed the prohibition against cannabis cultivation, stated: “Tribal members should have the same economic opportunities as our non-Indian neighbors, and not be subject to the threat of discriminatory prosecution and additional penalties by our government for the cultivation of cannabis on deeded or tribally assigned or leased land. Repeal of Title 34 will provide Tribal members with the right to make their own choices about participation in a legal California industry. Repeal of Title 34 prohibition of cannabis cultivation will not prohibit the Tribal Council from adopting regulations to regulate cannabis cultivation for environmental protection.” The election ordinance states that, once a referendum measure passes, “the Council is bound by that decision.” “Bound” is a legal term, it means literally the council’s hands are tied, the council cannot act to overturn a referendum, they are bound by it; But instead, the council chose not to do anything but ignore the referendum.

On April 24, 2019, the Hoopa Valley Tribal Election Board certified a new petition, signed by 287 tribal members, to adopt a new Title 34, titled “The Cannabis Regulation Ordinance” which calls for the regulation of cannabis agriculture and businesses under existing tribal environmental and business codes (hemp is not mentioned). On April 24, late Friday afternoon the Vice Chairman Tyke Billings and Councilmen Leonard Masten and Byron Nelson, in the absence of the chairman, issued a “Memorandum Re: Special Meeting Notice” which contained a motion to approve and place on the upcoming general election for referendum vote to allow cultivation of marijuana on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation. (Yes or No.) This special meeting violated the 10-day notice rule for meetings, and the rule against introducing and voting on new business at the same meeting. The motion completely ignores, as the council has for the past year, the fact that their question was answered in the 2018 election.

After the 2018 election, some discussion was raised by the opposition that the 2018 ballot was “poorly written” or “unclear.” It wasn’t unclear to the voters who voted in favor. The election ordinance provides for an administrative appeal, that the council ignored, and judicial review, which the council ignored. The Election Board certified the 2018 repeal of Title 34 to be a valid election. The council refused to follow any administrative appeal of seeking judicial review because they think they are above the law, and legally unchallengeable.

The council’s refusal to recognize the people’s will in the 2018 election, and this blatant attempt to again undermine the will of the tribal people, exercising their constitutional right to petition, is the most unethical misuse of power ever seen in Hoopa politics. In state and local elections, when an initiative petition is in play the elected officials don’t interfere but stand down until the initiative is voted on to determine the will of the people. In Hoopa, our current leaders believe they have the right to rule, to impose their moral judgments on issues, and ignore the will of the people they are elected to serve.

Finally, the article was premature. The council’s motion has not yet been approved for the June 2019 ballot by the Election Board, which is scheduled to meet on Monday, May 6, 2019. An administrative appeal has been filed, as has a petition for an injunction before the Tribal Court to defend the peoples constitutional right to petition, and against this act of tyranny.

Clifford Lyle Marshall Sr. is a petitioner and Tribal citizen.

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