Law | Opinion

Walt Lamar: Tribes face problems dealing with legalized marijuana






A dispensary in Denver, Colorado. Photo from O'Dea / Wikipedia

Walt Lamar discusses tribal responses to the legalization of marijuana in certain states:
Tribes in most states—including Colorado, where recreational use is also legal—follow federal law on marijuana use, possession, production and distribution. While some at the Ute Mountain Ute reservation have recommended initiating community discussion on the topic, the Southern Ute have come out very strongly against adhering to Colorado's recreational marijuana laws.

The fact of the matter is that tribes have experienced more harm than good by illegal growing, cartel activity, and children being endangered by adult use or being recruited into gangs. Other tribal leaders cite problems with allowing marijuana in Indian Country such as losing subsidies for low income housing and BIA funding; IHS and tribal health services capacity strained by already high rates of drug and alcohol abuse; adding a burden to tribal law enforcement departments, courts and other agencies; and loss of employment due to failing drug tests. This last could spell big problems for recruiting and retaining a number of public trust positions, such as firefighters and police officers.

Those who support tribes' participation in legal marijuana programs point to traditional uses for cannabis, economic development potential, reduced rates of prescription drug overdoses, and lifting the burden of patrol, monitoring, detention and probation from tribal public safety agencies. What advocates don't want to discuss is the increase in specific risks involving children, particularly increased hospitalizations due to edibles, diversion from family members, and children perceiving marijuana use as "safe."

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Walt Lamar: Legalized Pot Is a Mess of Trouble for Tribes (Indian Country Today 9/1)