Opinion

Harlan McKosato: Marijuana debate heats up in Indian Country






An illegal marijuana farm on public land in California. Photo from Addictiontreatment.org

Harlan McKosato delves into a debate that's heating up across Indian Country: Should tribes grow marijuana on their lands?
The smoke you see coming from tribal lands is no longer the stereotypical smoke signals. The smoke is coming from the mouths of Native people who are pro-legalization of marijuana, and from the ears of those who are against it. I say this tongue-in-cheek, but the debate is sparking up (so to speak).

In December, the U.S. Department of Justice released a memo stating that Indian tribes can grow and sell marijuana on their lands as long as they follow the same federal guidelines as states that have legalized “the ganja.” More than half the states have some form of law that legalizes pot – 23 states have legalized medical marijuana and Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska have legalized recreational use. California, Arizona, Nevada and New Hampshire are apparently the next states on the horizon to legalize recreational use.

Now, back to the idea of tribes starting their own marijuana farms – one argument is that growing and selling pot could offer tribes another boost (i.e. tribal casinos) to their local economies. Another argument is that reservations and villages need another legalized recreational drug like they need another hole in the head.

“For me, it’s a drug,” said Ellen Fills the Pipe, Oglala Sioux Tribal Councilwoman and chair of the council’s law and order committee. Smell the Truth, an online news source dedicated to the coverage of medical marijuana and cannabis industries, described Fills the Pipe as the “owner of the most ironic tribal name in existence, (who) will likely oppose the newly relaxed law due to her background in law enforcement.”

“My gut feeling is we’re most likely going to shoot it down,” said Fills the Pipe. I’m sure there was no pun intended for the law and order chairwoman.

Get the Story:
Harlan McKosato: Should Tribes Grow Pot on the Rez? (Indian Country Today 2/10)

Relevant Documents:
Department of Justice Policy Statement Regarding Marijuana Issues in Indian Country (October 2014)

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