WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – The Navajo Nation's (search) governing council voted Friday to outlaw methamphetamine, an addictive stimulant that has become a scourge for tribal police and health officials on the sprawling reservation.
The tribe's drug laws ban most other substances that are illegal in the rest of the United States, but until Friday made no specific mention of methamphetamine (search).
"This legislation is a matter of urgency," said Hope MacDonald-LoneTree, who sponsored the bill and heads a public safety committee updating the Navajo's criminal code, which, she said, had not been updated "for a couple of decades."
The measure passed in a 64-0 voice vote. It now goes to Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. (search) for consideration; he has previously said he would support codes to stop drug and alcohol use on the Navajo Nation, which is home to roughly 200,000 people.
The bill would make the possession or sale of methamphetamine punishable by up to one year in tribal jail and a $5,000 fine.
The council was meeting in a special session called after it failed to vote on the bill during its scheduled winter session last month.
Law enforcement officials say most methamphetamine on the vast reservation — the largest in the United States, reaching into parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah — is brought in from Phoenix or Albuquerque, N.M., repackaged and sold.
The FBI estimates up to 40 percent of the violent crime cases it handles on the reservation are methamphetamine related.
"Under the influence of methamphetamine, people don't think rationally," said FBI special agent Nick Manns, who testified on behalf of the bill.
He said the new law will allow authorities to put more pressure on methamphetamine distributors because tribal police can arrest people for its sale and use.