Choctaw Nation removes marijuana possession from mandatory fee schedule

May 16—The Choctaw Nation Tribal Council voted to amend a section of tribal code removing the possession of marijuana from a list of illegal drugs that result in a mandatory assessment fee following a criminal conviction.

Counselors unanimously voted to amend Section 2-503.2 of the Choctaw Nation's Public Safety Code that relates to the assessment for violation of acts — Drug Abuse Education and Treatment.

The code states any person convicted of a violation of the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Act "shall be assessed for each offense a sum of not less than $100 nor more than $3,000."

"The assessment shall be mandatory and in addition to and not in lieu of any fines, restitution costs, other assessments, or forfeitures authorized or required by law for the offense,' the code states. "The assessment required by this section shall not be subject to any order of suspension. The court shall order either a lump sum payment or establish a payment schedule."

Non-payment of the assessment by the offender was to be considered "contempt of court" and did not expire until the fee was paid in full and was not limited by any sentence handed down by the court.

The amendment to the code adds section 2-601.2 and adds an exemption for the possession of marijuana from Section 2-503.2.

"These amendments further the strategic goals of exercising tribal sovereignty by giving the Choctaw Court more discretion in updating tribal laws," District 3 Councilman Eddie Bohanan said during the May 11 regular meeting.

Councilors voted in April 2021 during a special session to amend the tribe's public health and safety code that outlawed the use and growing of marijuana, including medical marijuana.

Medical marijuana cards or business licenses issued by the state of Oklahoma were not recognized under Choctaw Nation law after the April 1,2021 Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruling that applied the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma to the Choctaw Nation reservation.

According to tribal laws, Native Americans who now fall under the criminal jurisdiction of the tribe who used medical marijuana risked jail time and fines.

"Without an amendment, Native Americans in possession of a valid state medical marijuana license, within the Choctaw Nation reservation, could have been arrested and charged for marijuana-related offenses in tribal court," the Choctaw Nation said in a press release following the April 2021 amendment.

The temporary measure decriminalizing medical marijuana remains in effect.