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Pit River chairman upset by pot raid. Calls actions a ‘serious assault to the tribe’s right to self-governance’Mickey Gemmill Jr., chairman of the Pit River Tribe, says he is disappointed with last week’s raid of marijuana grow operations in Modoc County, including one involving the Pit River Tribe.
Agents from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Drug Enforcement Administration raided two sites on tribal lands near Alturas last Wednesday. According to a new release from the agencies, law enforcement officers, including the Modoc County Sheriff ’s Department, seized at least 12,000 marijuana plants and more than 100 pounds of processed marijuana.“The marijuana grows in question have received substantial attention in Modoc County, as has the U.S. Department of Justice’s guidance relating to marijuana cultivation on tribal lands,” the release said. One site was an indoor grow operation at the Alturas Indian Rancheria, inside the tribe’s former Event Center near the Desert Rose Casino. The second site was the XL Ranch adjacent to Highway 395 along the Pit River. According to the release, the XL site included 40 newly constructed greenhouses, each capable of growing about 1,000 plants, and a gable-roofed structure that boosted the square footage another 50 percent.
“Both of the grow operations, which appear to have been operating in conjunction with each other, were well in excess of the locally enacted marijuana cultivation applicable to county land,” the release said. “The volume of marijuana that the XL facility alone was capable of producing, estimated at 40,000-60,000 plants, far exceeds any prior known commercial marijuana grow operation anywhere within the 34-county Eastern District.“According to tribal representatives, all of the marijuana cultivated at both facilities was intended to be distributed off tribal lands at various unidentified locations. As indicated in the search warrant affidavits, the investigation to date indicates both operations may have been financed by a third party foreign national.”
In comments to the Herald and News and in a news release, Gemmill disputed some of those claims and emphasized the Pit River Tribe is not affiliated with the Alturas Rancheria.The Pit River Tribe has about 3,000 members and has manages about 14,000 acres of land, including about 10,000 in Modoc County near Alturas. The Alturas Rancheria has five members and tribal holdings of about 20 acres.
Gemmill said federal agencies failed to provide any warning before last week’s raid, despite the Pit River Tribe’s efforts to follow guidelines.“Federal agents destroyed the patient cooperative’s plants and seized confidential patient information, among other documents,” he said in news release. “We are very disappointed with the decision of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, as the lead federal agency, to descend on sovereign land with an army of nearly 50 law enforcement officers. That the BIA would take such a disrespectful approach to an Indian tribe on its own land is a serious assault to the tribe’s right to self-governance.”
“This action was especially appalling given that some tribal members were subjected to excessive police force, severely injured and arrested during the search,” Gemmill said. “We believe that it is important to remind the BIA of its responsibility to protect Indian tribes, not to undermine legitimate tribal efforts to create jobs and improve the health and welfare of tribal members.”“Needless to say, we intend to have conversations in the coming days with the Department of Justice and the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs,” said Gemmill.
The Pit River Tribe is a federally recognized Indian tribe of 11 autonomous bands of Indians with tribal lands in Shasta, Lassen, Siskiyou and Modoc counties. The Pit River Tribe has no affiliation with the Alturas Indian Rancheria and is not cooperating with any marijuana cultivation being conducted on the 20 acre Alturas Rancheria.firstname.lastname@example.org
Pit River Tribe asserts group is following lawDetails of the Pit River Tribe’s marijuana grow operation in Modoc County, near Alturas, have been released by tribal Chairman Mickey Gemmill Jr.
He said earlier this year, the Pit River Tribe “joined the ranks of California and nearly two dozen other state governments by adopting a regulatory program that legalizes the cultivation of medical marijuana on tribal land. The tribe’s decision was in response to the Oct. 28, 2014, guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice indicating that such activity would not trigger federal enforcement action, provided that measures were taken to prevent delineated conduct of concern to law enforcement.“The tribe’s Medical Marijuana Program Ordinance is consistent with California’s two laws governing cultivation, distribution and use of medical marijuana, the Compassionate Use Act and the Medical Marijuana Program Act, and in fact, goes well beyond those statutes to ensure compliance with the eight federal law enforcement priorities,” Gemmill said.
“Tribal law requires that all medical marijuana be grown only for qualified medical marijuana patients residing in California. The tribe also has adopted stringent regulations on inventory control, quality assurance, site security, member-patient criteria, plant tracking and plant limits, among other requirements, all of which go much further than the laws of the state.”According to Gemmill, the Medical Marijuana Program “authorizes the cooperative association of qualified patients to cultivate marijuana for medical use, as long as they operate on a non-profit basis. No other individual or entity is permitted to cultivate marijuana on tribal land. In accordance with these laws, Pomari-Awte, an arm of the tribe with authority to administer the operational aspects of the Medical Marijuana Program, approved the creation of a patient cooperative to cultivate medical marijuana on the Tribe’s land in Modoc County. Thereafter, program administrators reviewed and approved membership applications from qualified patients wishing to join the cooperative, known as High Desert Farms.”
Gemmill said the tribe created an independent regulatory agency to monitor and oversee the program to ensure compliance with tribal law, relevant federal policy and applicable California law.“Each medical marijuana plant is assigned to a particular patient, with each plant bearing the identification of the patient for whom it is cultivated and a unique serial number to ensure that each plant can be tracked. Again, these provisions go far beyond anything required by California state law, and are modeled after the more robust regulatory schemes in other medical marijuana states,” Gemmill added.
He said the tribe is experienced at operating within highly regulated industries, noting, “We’ve managed a well-regulated gaming facility for 19 years and felt very comfortable creating a robust regulatory environment for the Medical Marijuana Program.”“The Oct. 28, 2014, Department of Justice’s guidance memorandum addressing marijuana operations in Indian Country expressly instructs each U.S. Attorney to meaningfully engage in government-to-government consultation with Indian tribes in their district that seek to authorize marijuana activity on tribal lands,” Gemmill said in the release.
“We have been transparent in our conversations with the federal government and made no secret of our intent to exercise our sovereignty in the manner we believe appropriate. We consulted with the U.S. Attorney’s Office prior to implementing our ordinance and continued to consult with that office and other government officials throughout its implementation.”He said the tribe provided the attorney’s office a copy of the Medical Marijuana Program Ordinance and a comparative analysis of how the program complies with the guidance memorandum and compares to state and local laws.
“We pointed out the regulatory safeguards adopted by the tribe to comply with the enforcement priorities outlined by the Department of Justice in the guidance memo,” Gemmill said. “We asked the U.S. Attorney’s Office to identify any concerns and to advise the tribal government before taking any enforcement action against the tribal project.”
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