The Cannabis Controversy Among the MohawksBy Doug George-Kanentiio I have written previously about the current issues involving the use of cannabis and its attendant controversy began with the racial fanaticism of Harry J. Anslinger, the director of the US office of narcotics, and William Randolph Hearst, the infamous "yellow journalism" newspaper publisher of the early 20th century. Both despised ethnic minorities and sought to attack and undermine people of color by pressuring the federal government into making marijuana, a recreational substance with no known physically addictive elements. Anslinger and Hearst succeeded with the passage of the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act which was strengthened by the Controlled Substance Act of 1970. The results would have pleased those two men as millions of people were charged for the possession and use of the plant which became demonized when it was referred to as an illegal drug with the negative stigmas attached. Blacks, Latinos and Natives were convicted and imprisoned for using the plant despite its history as a medicine and relaxant dating back thousands of years. Native governments on both sides of the international border were also affected and cited marijuana as a communal evil and its users as deviants. By making the plant illegal the market for it was driven underground and came under the control of criminal elements who furthered qualified its usage by using force, bribery and intimidation as they sought to grow, manufacture, transport and sale marijuana. credit of Canada that stigma has been removed in the light of science, common sense and the acknowledgement that marijuana ingestion and marijuana medical use is now an ingrained part of Canadian culture. Add to this the great financial profits the provinces and federal government stands to make by taxing the growing and selling of marijuana. Native communities are, in some instances, in an ideal place to provide marijuana as a medicine and for recreational substance for the Canadian and soon to open New York markets. Some, like Tyendinaga, have moved quickly to open retail shops by the score in an act of free enterprise which is bringing in millions of dollars to that territory. The Mohawks there have experienced no problems with the exception of keeping up with demand. The Mohawk Council there did the wise thing and let the retailers oversee the operations and kept Ontario out of any external law enforcement actions. They did so by working out a regulatory system with benefits all. Akwesasne is, once again, in an ideal location to respond to the need for industrial hemp and medical-recreational marijuana. The farms which were once located throughout the territory have long gone, a legacy of polluting industries such as Reynolds, Alcoa, Domtar and General Motors. Now that the land is healing it can be turned over to this new crop for which there will be great demand for many years to come. It remains for the local councils to work with the growers and to keep the alien police forces away from Mohawk lands.
Within our traditional teachings lie the solution to this: reason, negotiation, compassion and rationality to arrive at a place where we are at peace. Violence as directed against the Mohawk people by one of its councils must never be a response to a communal need. It can be demonstrated that without a doubt marijuana is now of great benefit in many ways and must, naturally, find its way to the people. Retail outlets, such as those in Tyendinaga, have been proven to work. In the end it is the will of the people which must prevail over any policy, license or regulation imposed by any council without first taking this issue before the community and gaining its approval. Directing cops using force as a first step is dangerous for all and is a mistake. Encouraging these kind of tactics, either subtle or direct, is also a grave error which sets up sides: the people versus the councils. . And all of this only serves the external governments which are all too happy to see that once again Mohawks are fighting other Mohawks based on what? A plant given to the human people to do exactly what it does best: heal. Doug George-Kanentiio, Akwesasne Mohawk, is the vice-president of the Hiawatha Institute for Indigenous Knowledge. He has served as a Trustee for the National Museum of the American Indian, is a former land claims negotiator for the Mohawk Nation and is the author of numerous books and articles about the Mohawk people. He may be reached via e-mail at: Kanentiio@aol.com or by calling 315-415-7288.
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