Arrow-right Camera
News >  Idaho

High court weighing tribal cigarette sales

New York wholesaler says state can’t regulate inter-tribal deals

BOISE – Idaho Supreme Court justices are pondering a case in which a Native American-owned cigarette wholesaler from a reservation in New York says the state has no jurisdiction to regulate the smokes it sends to the Coeur d’Alene Reservation.

The state disagrees and won a lower-court injunction, but Native Wholesale Supply Co. appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court. The firm, which wholesales cigarettes made by a large native-owned manufacturer in Canada, has gotten into legal scrapes with other states in the past, including Washington.

NWS contends the state has no jurisdiction to regulate its sales, as they’re between tribal members on reservations, and there’s no evidence the cigarettes ever entered any part of Idaho outside the Coeur d’Alene Reservation – since the reservation touches the state of Washington.

“Native Wholesale Supply has never sold to any Idaho consumer,” attorney Samuel Diddle told the justices Monday. The wholesale sales to Warpath Inc. on the Coeur d’Alene Reservation “may not be regulated by the state because of tribal sovereignty,” he said.

Deputy Idaho Attorney General Brett DeLange told the justices, “Our Legislature has spent a lot of time adopting a very comprehensive set of statutes and rules to regulate cigarette sales in Idaho. One of them is before those cigarettes can be sold, they need to be approved for sale. The Attorney General needs to know who that manufacturer is. … Native Wholesale Supply just wants to ignore all that. They don’t want to comply with the state’s efforts of comprehensively regulating cigarette sales in our state.”

Retired Justice Linda Copple Trout, who is sitting in on the case in place of Justice Warren Jones, said, “I know the cigarettes say that they are to be resold on the reservation, but that certainly is not a limitation against who may ultimately end up with the product.” She noted that the state’s interest in its laws regarding the tobacco settlement was to recover funds from those selling “a dangerous product” to cover the state’s costs for health care services related to its use.

At the close of Monday’s arguments, the Idaho justices took the case under advisement and will issue their written decision later.