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Reservation Resident Caught in Tug of War Over Pot

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May 20,00
The Associated Press
As a Washington resident, Denise Ives was able to vote in favor of Initiative 692, the medical marijuana law adopted in 1998.
But because her home is on the Colville Indian Reservation, Ives must drive 15 miles each time she needs to treat her medical condition with a marijuana cigarette.
Ives is caught in a jurisdictional dispute involving tribal, state and federal law. As a Washington citizen, she could vote for the medical marijuana law. But it doesn't apply to her as long as she lives on the Colville Reservation, where tribal and federal law hold sway.
The state law allows, with a physician's approval, a person to have a 60-day supply of marijuana to treat a number of illnesses and disorders.
In a plea agreement last week, Colville Tribal Court Judge Steven Aycock sentenced Ives, a Nespelem resident who is not a Colville tribal member, to 20 hours of community service.
Ives suffers from a painful constipating condition known as irritable bowel syndrome. Colville tribal law, such as federal law, doesn't allow the medical use of marijuana.
Ives could have been sentenced to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine for each of her guilty pleas, to possessing less than 40 grams of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
Federal law says tribal law applies to all recognized American Indians, no matter what tribe they're enrolled in. Ives is a Duwamish Indian, enrolled in the Suquamish tribe.
Moving off the Colville Reservation is not an option. Ives' husband, James, is a Colville tribal member, and Nespelem is their home.
"The court had to say what it said," Ives said. "That's the law. I respect that."
But driving across the Columbia River bridge at the edge of the reservation several times a day to smoke her medical marijuana is "barely doable," she said.
"I just want to have the same rights over here that I have on the other side of the bridge," Ives said. "I'm the same person."
Although Colville tribal Prosecutor David Ward had no objection to Ives' relatively light sentence, there is no guarantee she won't have new trouble with Okanogan or Grant county prosecutors when she crosses the bridge.
There's also no guarantee that Aycock won't impose additional conditions on Ives' sentence. He ordered her to undergo a drug and alcohol evaluation to make sure she's not abusing marijuana or other drugs.
"I want to make sure there is not something going on that we're missing and not dealing with here," Aycock said.
Ives' attorney, Wayne Svaren of Grand Coulee, said he fears the counselors who perform drug evaluations are predisposed to say any use of a controlled substance is abuse. He vowed to appeal any finding of abuse.
Meanwhile, Svaren said he will ask the fledgling Colville Tribal Bar Association to join him in urging the tribal council to authorize medical use of marijuana.
"We hope the council will recognize the conflict that some of their citizens are put in," he said.

© 2000 The Associated Press.