BY: SINEAD MULHERN
First Nations reserves in the U.S. have been given the green light to grow and sell marijuana on their lands.
This is a decision that comes with much controversy, though. Whether or not reserves choose to take advantage of this industry is up to them and it is yet to be determined who will be approving the substance and who will ban it. While some say that this could be a money-making industry like selling cigarettes, others are saying that it will lead to detrimental social problems.
Those opposed to the new development say that it will only result in trouble. Kevin A. Sabet, former advisor on drug issues to President Obama, told LA Times that this decision is extremely troubling and devalues drug laws already set in America. Furthermore, he says that turning marijuana into a commercial industry targeting a group of people that has disproportionately struggled with addiction compared to the general population is not a wise move.
Amanda Marshal, an Oregon attorney and co-chair on the group that developed the policy, worries about state support in the event of drug abuse. “What will the U.S. as federal partners do to assist tribes in protecting our children and families, our tribal businesses, our tribal housing? How will you help us combat marijuana abuse in Indian County when states are no longer there to partner with us?” she says to The Guardian.
Pot-related gang activity and violence and sales to underage kids are all problems that would remain even if the substance itself is legal.
Allowing the cannabis on Native reserves won’t be an all or nothing situation, but will go through on a case-by-case basis. The Guardian reports that three reserves are interested right now: one in the mid-West, one in California and one in Washington.
But several tribes have openly shot down the policy. These include the Hoopa Valley Tribe from Northern California and Washington’s Yakama Reserve. The Hoopa has banned marijuana plantations on their land in the past for environmental damage caused on the site and the Yakama have been halting state-regulated weed as well. Each reserve does have the right to create its own codes around on how to deal with the issue. That means that even if pot is legal in the state, it can still be illegal on the reserve, and vice versa.
If they do allow pot sales, they still have to abide by the same rules that are applied to the U.S. states that have legalized weed. These rules include not selling to under agers and not trafficking the drug to zones where it is illegal. States that allow possession and sales of marijuana include Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia. Even if a reserve is in a state where the substance is illegal, attorneys will not be allowed to prosecute for possession. They would however be able to prosecute for drug-related felonies.
But this doesn’t come without an upside. Those who are for it point to the monetary gain— a potential money-maker specific to American reserves. Weed sold on the First Nations reserves wouldn’t be subject to local and federal taxes that hike up the price. That’s good news for anyone looking solely at the business side of things because First Nations could sell it for cheaper than anywhere outside of the reserve. In Washington state for example, the added taxes hike the prices up by an additional 25 percent.