Tribes Must Protect Right to Grow Weed

Linda Amelia & Dennis G. Chappabitty

On August 6, an obviously senseless Bill was proposed by Senator Lankford (R-OK) that seeks to attack and destroy a tribe’s sovereign right to decide whether to engage in the cultivation of cannabis plants in States where medicinal marijuana growing and use are legal.

The KIDS Act (S. 1984) stands for “Keeping out Illegal Drugs Act of 2015”. This Act is intended to “close the door” on Indian Tribes from having anything to do with cannabis and threatening to cut off all their federal funding and benefits if they move forward to regulate its use on tribal trust property.

This is a threat of “termination” in the form of an Act of the U.S. Congress. When a tribal member is cut off from federal benefits due to their status because their Nation voted to approve the growing of medicinal cannabis in states where it is lawful, the U.S. Congress harkens back to reviving the disgusting policy of federal termination of tribes and their tribal members.

If a Tribal Nation decides to exercise its inherent authority to venture into the cannabis industry, a federal law, the proposed KIDS Act would prohibit federal funding and grant benefits that help tribal citizens with their health and housing needs. Come on! The KIDS Act’s selective and discriminatory approach ignores the proven ability of Tribes to self-regulate a variety of business endeavors on their Lands, including gaming.

One must wonder if Senator Lankford realizes that on March 10 of this year Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) introduced the Compassionate Access, Research and Respect States Act of 2015 (CARERS Act) (S.683 and H.R. 1538). Senator Boxer (D-CA) is now a co-sponsor of the proposed CARERS Act. It is clear that CARERS support in our U.S. Congress is gaining momentum. See Attached Article.

This proposed bipartisan CARERS legislation would amend the Controlled Substances Act by transferring cannabis from schedule 1 to schedule 2 as defined in the Act. This would “open the door and remove barriers” for research, veterans, banking and most importantly it removes federal interference for medical use and allows States to set up their own policies without federal interference if cannabis is legal in a State for medical use.

U.S. Congress Representative Ami Bera (D-CA) noted in his letter to Dennis G. Chappabitty stated: “As a medical doctor, I understand that medical marijuana can help patients better deal with the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy and life-threatening diseases.” See Letter from Rep. Ami Bera, M.D., to Dennis G. Chappabitty.

Where is the equity in Senator Lankford’s bill? It appears racist on its face in light of the CARERS Act’s removal of federal barriers for States. So why can’t it do the same for Indian Tribes? Tribes may want to ask if the CARERS Act sponsors would support including Tribes as this would show Senator Lankford that Tribes want to regulate cannabis use themselves, as Sovereign Nations: it is common knowledge and established by our Courts of Law that Tribes should be treated equal to States.

The majority of the people in the United States want to see cannabis made accessible to all who need it for medical purposes and this includes American Indians living on or off the reservation, including our Native Veterans.

Federally Recognized Tribal Nation must reserve their own Inherent Tribal Sovereign Right to allow the growing and use of cannabis on their lands under highly regulated tribal law complaint with current U.S. Justice Department Memorandums. In the event a Tribe decides not to go in this direction, it is their Right and no one else’s.

Senator’s Lackford’s motives for proposing such an unprecedented law intent on selectively targeting Tribes paints a wrongful picture that Tribes are incapable of caring for the health and welfare needs of their members. The Senator’s “Wild West” depiction that Tribes are incapable of engaging in highly regulated business endeavors is unrealistic, offensive, “illusory” and not supported by credible evidence.

Help us educate Senator Lankford by sending him letters asking him to withdraw his bill. Educate him on the beneficial medical use of cannabis and its curing properties. Encourage your own Congressional Representatives to support the CARERS Act of 2015 and ask them to speak with Senator Lankford so that he makes better choices with regard to the legislation he puts forth that could negatively affect our Indian Nations.

Tell him his bill intrudes on Tribal Sovereignty and is a slap in the face to Federally Recognized Tribes and Tribal People. It denies our Tribal Spiritual Medicine People the right to use cannabis in their healing protocols so long as such use is lawful within the State where the Tribe and its Reservation is located.

We also have the right to wellness through cannabis, a plant given to Indigenous Peoples by the Great Spirit as a way of healing and enlightenment.

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