LEWISTON, NY (WKBW) — A fight over illegal cannabis sales in the Tuscarora Nation could lead to road blockades.
The Tuscarora Indian Reservation is located in Niagara County intersecting with highly traveled roads like Saunders-Settlement.
Law enforcement has been meeting with Nation leaders in trying to prevent the possible blockage.
“Cannabis sales on the Nation, at this point, are illegal,” declared Chief Frank Previte, Lewiston Police Department.
Lewiston Police Chief Previte says the Tuscarora Nation Council does not approve of selling marijuana or marijuana products on its reservation.
“The Nation can claim sovereignty — the Seneca's did and allow this type of thing, but the Tuscarora's have elected as a nation not too, so that would fall back to New York State law, which is there is no legal sale of marijuana at this point in New York State,” Previte explained.
In an effort to stop sales happening at illegal dispensaries, the Nation is threatening to set up roadblocks at its borders to prevent non-residents from coming in and purchasing it.
Lewiston police, the Niagara County District Attorney, and Niagara County Sheriff's Office have all been meeting with Nation Council leaders in hopes of preventing any roadblocks.
“Our issue is we need to keep the roads open for public safety. If there's an emergency on the Nation property or if on the other side that we can get there through the Reservation — that is our issue,” remarked Chief Deputy Aaron Schultz, Niagara County Sheriff’s Office. “We have an issue with them shutting down the roads looking at it through the public safety eyes.”
Chief Deputy Schultz says the Nation does not have its own police or fire departments and relies on area law enforcement for emergencies.
“If they shut down the road and they're just inside the gate, and I’m Route 31 — how am I going to get to you? Seconds matter when it comes to those types of issues not minutes — it's seconds,” described Schultz.
“And our message to the nation would be — to give us the opportunity to handle this,” Chief Previte stated. “They didn't indicate that it would be on any major road, so we don't know what their intentions are that way.”
I stopped at a few shops along Reservation roads, but no one was willing to speak about the issue, since the sales are considered illegal.
I also reached out to the Tuscarora Council for a response, but have yet to hear from anyone. We even visited their offices, but no one was there.