Brandon Ecoffey: Oglala Sioux Tribe must act on legal marijuana

The following is the opinion of Brandon Ecoffey, Lakota Country Times Editor. All content © Lakota Country Times.

Brandon Ecoffey

A Note from the Editor’s desk
By Brandon Ecoffey
Lakota Country Times

As the U.S. continues down a path towards legalizing marijuana for both recreational and medicinal usage the question remains if tribes will capitalize on their potentially unique position in the market.

Over a year ago I had a conversation with former OST councilman Larry Eagle Bull Sr. about the possibility of legalizing marijuana on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. At that time we estimated that tribes would have approximately a 3 year window to establish its own industry before the rest of the country rapidly legalizes and big corporations take over production. Last week when the Wounded Knee district board passed a motion indicated that at least some in the district support legalization the debate picked up steam once again.

Tribes in western South Dakota have a history of failing to up their bets when the deck was hot. One prime example is gaming. The Oglala Sioux tribe waited on that ship to sail while places like Deadwood aggressively and successfully cornered the gaming market in this tourist rich state. The state of South Dakota did play their part in limiting the ability of tribes to expand their gaming capacity as allowed for by federal law however, the feds have basically said that tribes would be treated in the same way as states if they chose to pursue hemp and cannabis. The federal government has not often said that it would stand aside and allow tribes to fully exercise their inherent rights as nations to determine their own economic destiny.

Although there are critics of legalization, some of whom are vehemently opposed to this socio-political movement, much of the arguments against legalization leave out important facts from this debate.

One of the most common arguments against legalization is that marijuana is a gateway drug that if used would eventually lead to the use of other drugs. This position is supported by the DEA and most recently New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Much of this belief is based in early anti-marijuana propaganda and studies that although widely referenced did not stand up to scrutiny by other scientists. .

New research has shown that there a multiple predictors that more accurately determine if an individual will try harder drugs at some point in life. These factors are poverty, exposure to other users, social environment and mental illness. If anything society has made these gateways to harder drugs far more effectively than pot has through poor public policy.

Recently, Oglala Sioux Tribal President John Steele stated that he was opposed to legalization based on the fear that he wouldn’t want a marijuana user driving towards him at a high rate of speed on the highway. What President Steele fails to realize is that in American today most of us will have a pot user driving towards us at some point today.

States like Colorado will eventually pump billions of dollars in to a school system that was failing all while rebuilding their highways and civil infrastructure with taxes collected from the sale of pot.

The citizens of the Oglala Nation deserve to have a strong economy and legalized pot may be the quickest way to achieve it.

Brandon Ecoffey is the editor of Lakota Country Times and an award winning journalist who was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

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