Fentanyl is a killer; there’s no doubt about it. Earlier this month, Officers from Warm Springs Tribal Police Department (WSTPD) arrested two men for plausible drug possession at Indian Head Casino. One of the men may have been using fentanyl at the time of the arrest.
The arrest brings up the dangers of fentanyl, as well as the complexities of tribal and federal law in Oregon.
Alleged fentanyl user had outstanding warrants
WSTPD arrested thirty-six-year-old Joshua Dryden, then sent him to a local hospital under suspicion of using fentanyl, according to local reports. WSTPD charged Dryden with:
- Unlawful possession of a controlled substance
- Unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia
- False Identification
Police also cited him for simple possession of a controlled substance, and the suspect allegedly had several separate outstanding warrants in Oregon.
A public records search by PlayOregon of Dryden’s criminal history and confirmed his outstanding warrants. Those warrants are related to charges of identity theft, resisting arrest, criminal mischief, and other incidents.
What will happen to Dryden? Eventually, WSTPD will discharge Dryden from its custody and hand him over to state law enforcement.
Tribal police also arrested Michael Butrus, additionally charging him with unlawful possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia. WSTPD found the two men with a third man in a Mercedes at the casino.
Police did not arrest the third man, according to local reports.
What happens when you’re arrested on tribal land for drug possession?
The arrest of the two men on tribal land is an interesting one. It brings to the forefront Oregon’s recent decriminalization of drugs.
Under Oregon law, the two men who were arrested at Indian Head Casino would face a violation, not a misdemeanor or felony, as long as the drugs they possessed were personal-use amounts. The violation carries a maximum fine of $100. Under Oregon law, the offender can waive that fee by calling a state-run hotline.
The decriminalization of controlled substances like fentanyl is the first program of its kind in the entire country. Its goal is to help users recover, rather than throwing them into jail.
However, WSTPD Police Chief Bill Elliott said in the statement sent to local media that he’s taking a hard line approach against the suspects.
“The Warm Springs Tribal Police Department wants to notify the public that even though there are new laws affecting the State of Oregon regarding the possession of controlled substances, on lands that are under the jurisdiction of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs (CTWS) the current tribal and federal drug statutes will remain in effect,” he said.
Elliott went on to make it clear that anyone who passes through Warm Springs Indian Reservation with drugs in their possession will face vigorous enforcement of tribal laws.
“Even though the Warm Springs community and government embraces prevention, intervention, and rehabilitation as the ultimate means of bringing about a drug-safe environment, it also strongly believes in the rule of law as part of its governmental doctrine,” Elliott said. “As such, the WSTPD … will not tolerate drug usage, possession, or trafficking within its jurisdiction no matter the amount.”