Ryanna and Joe McMinn have endured many challenges in their efforts to treat her Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome with medical cannabis in their Tribal community, Walker River Paiute, in Schurz, Nevada. Joseph is a native of the Walker River Paiute Tribe, but Ryanna is not. In Nevada, medical cannabis has been regulated since 2000 and subsequently, adult use was approved in 2017. But Native American Tribes can make their own law and in 2016, Joseph’s Tribe made cannabis illegal because of federal funding the tribe was receiving.
With Ryanna not being a part of the Tribe, she is not governed by Tribal law. So, It was a big surprise when Ryanna and her husband were lured to the police station only to be told that officers were on their way with a search warrant to their home to confiscate the growing equipment and three six-inch plants that Ryanna had been growing in her kitchen. She is a registered medical cannabis patient in Nevada where she is fully under the law to do so. But, they were not charging Ryanna, they were charging her husband, since he was part of the Tribe.
In 2006, Joseph was the Chief of Police for the Walker River Police Department and was shot in the chest and leg when he and several other officers were called to a house where it was suspected that methamphetamine was being manufactured. They med-evacuated Joseph to Reno where he was in the Intensive Care Unit. Because of his injuries, Joseph was fired from his job by the Tribal Council with no pension. The Tribe held a ceremony in his honor after he recovered, and as a gift, gave him the blanket pictured in the photo.
The couple was confused as to why they would charge Joseph when Ryanna made it known on more than one occasion she holds a medical card allowing her to grow. There is suspicion it was an act of retaliation because of disputes Joseph and Ryanna were having with Tribal housing authorities about repairs needed in their home. Ryanna believes it was politically motivated so that the housing could get grounds to evict the family.
Ryanna and Joe McMinn were able to stay in their home as they were able to eventually help change Tribal law to allow medical cannabis, but remain skeptical of law enforcement motives to enforce laws. Ending federal cannabis prohibition is crucial to clearly define laws in all states so that people can feel protected by the law, not fear it.
Cruel Consequences: Portraits of Misguided Law is a portrait exhibit designed to educate communities and erode the stigma of cannabis criminalization. Portrait stories are available to community, advocacy, and industry events to promote awareness and provoke dialogue that encourages viewers to question assumptions and actively engage in undoing the damages of cannabis prohibition. Find them at cruelconsequences.org and on social media at @cruleconsequences.