Indigenous Nations Struggle For Inclusion In Cannabis

Indigenous Nations Struggle For Inclusion In Cannabis

Many indigenous nations in the U.S. have implemented or legalized cannabis for medical or recreational use. An equal number are opposed to legalization. The reasons for the polarized views are as varied as the nations themselves.

Some nations view legalized marijuana as a means to provide jobs, medicine, and revenue to their communities. Chenae Bullock, managing director of Shinnecock Nation’s soon-to-open dispensary and vertically integrated venture, Little Beach Harvest, in the New York area, says Shinnecock Nation has a long history with the plant, using it for medicine and cordage. The nation currently hopes to contribute to that history by becoming the destination for cannabis in the affluent Southampton, New York region.

Shinnecock Nation collaborates with cannabis tech and infrastructure company TILT Holdings Inc., wholly owning and operating its venture on their land. Unfortunately, the bloody and troubled history with U.S. political authority has a far-reaching impact on the varying capabilities of Indigenous cannabis farmers. “Due to forced assimilation and laws that were created against our way of living, sometimes the understanding of the plant is different from one tribe to another,” Bullock, who is also featured in the image for this article, said.

Compacts between surrounding governments and Indigenous nations are critical to establishing cooperation on gaming and cannabis. These agreements can vary wildly from state to state. In Washington, tribes cooperate with state authorities without being controlled by them. California requires state regulation of a tribe’s facility to participate in the marketplace. Understandably, this leaves many nations concerned about U.S. overreach on their land – something they are tragically and unfairly already accustomed to. For other nations, the multi-layered bureaucracy of state and federal laws that conflict with sovereign tribal law discourages investment in the industry altogether.

Tribes in California, we can’t even participate in the legal market, even though we’re tribal governments,” said Tina Braithwaite, a consultant and former chairwoman of the Uta Uta Gwaitu Paiute Tribe in the Benton, California area.

“We need their recognition to gain entry into this market on our land,” said Rita Montoya, a Baltimore-based attorney and an Opata tribe member.

As with any impasse, direct and open communication could be the solution. Many have urged U.S. lawmakers to attend tribal meetings and meet directly with tribal elders – instead of relying on staff aids to go out and do that important work for them.

“You get the tribal leaders to the table, and the state sends its messengers,” Montoya said. Hiring more indigenous experts could effectively address education and inclusion gaps.

“There is a level of cultural competency and education that this industry needs,” Montoya said. “You can get the competency and education that you need, but you need to pay for the experts just like you would anything else.”

To highlight her calls for inclusion measures for tribal nations and Indigenous entrepreneurs, Montoya pointed to the parallels between Indigenous and Black communities, saying that “[Both have been] Stomped on and told to get up on our own…then the gates to all the resources are padlocked.” While the uphill battle may be steep, we’re excited at the prospect of buying glass jars of cannabis from those who so deserve to be in the cannabis space, especially considering many of the tribes’ long histories c=wtih the therapeutic and useful plant.

Reading next

First Dispensary Designed By and For Women of Color Opens in Los Angeles
New Statistics Paint A Poor Picture For Cannabis Industry Equity

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.