Jackson County Sheriff weighs in on Ho-Chunk vote to legalize pot on tribal lands

Sheriff Duane M. Waldera (Jackson County Sheriff's Department)
Sheriff Duane M. Waldera (Jackson County Sheriff’s Department)

Wisconsin media sources and local officials continue to react to last Saturday’s vote in Madison by the Ho-Chunk Nation to reverse a policy that made the use and sale of marijuana on tribal lands illegal. 63 % of members voted in favor, 34% voted against with 3% abstaining.

The vote follows similar votes by the Menominee Nation and the Sokaogon (Mole Lake) and Red Cliff Chippewa tribes to authorize their leadership to look into legalizing pot.

WEAU is reporting last weekend’s vote means that if the tribe is able to find a way to move forward that cannabis could become legal on Ho Chunk lands in more than a dozen Wisconsin counties including Jackson County, and the sheriff is already studying the potential impacts.

“Legalizing marijuana in one area can definitely make it complicated to enforce. I think that by doing it this way is going to challenge us as law enforcement,” Jackson County Sheriff Duane Waldera said.

Sheriff Waldera says if the tribe legalizes marijuana on its lands it could lead to headaches in Jackson County where Ho Chunk lands are sprinkled all over the county.

“It’s complicated how the Ho Chunk Nation is arranged is definitely going to make it a challenge. We aren’t like a reservation where the borders stop and the sheriff can’t go into the Indian lands. We can and that’s what’s complicating this case here,” Sheriff Waldera explained.

Meanwhile, tribal spokesperson Collin Price says the Ho Chunk Nation has a lot of planning and discussions ahead.

“We have no intent on breaking the law. We want to be good community partners with the law enforcement and the state and that’s something we will consider moving forward.”

Ho Chunk Tribal leaders plan to meet in the next two weeks to discuss the resolution and how to move forward.

Price told Madison’s Channel3000 on Sept. 23 there is support for legalizing marijuana for economic and medical benefits, but there is still a lot of research that needs to be done before the Ho-Chunk government legalizes the selling, growing or distribution of the drug:

“We already know that we’re going to be facing legal issues. That’s just within our own laws and policies. Then you combine the state of Wisconsin and federal law, now we’re talking about a much larger discussion.”

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