By JOSH HOLLOWAY
The recent notification that tribal leadership is considering the legalization of recreational (adult) use of marijuana on tribal lands via a referendum vote is extremely troubling. Personally, I never thought in my generation I would see this as an actual possibility amongst my own people, but here we are. While we are constantly fighting a war to keep drugs from further damaging our way of life and destroying any chance our children have for a future, it makes absolutely no sense to introduce an addictive and unhealthy drug in such a widely available format as recreational use.
Like many of our people, I personally have been affected by drug addiction and drug availability. Close family members of mine who are addicts have suffered and continue to suffer from easy access to drugs and the addiction that soon follows. Some of these family members have had their families destroyed and children lost all because of addiction. As many of you know, drug addiction affects more than just the user. Oftentimes, addiction destroys in such a long-lasting and far-reaching effect that the damage to both the user and family can become irreparable.
For those of you who think recreational use will open new avenues for tribal revenue, I strongly urge you to reconsider, especially given the trade-off that will follow with making an addictive and very unhealthy drug more readily available to our people. And is extra revenue a good substitute for controlled spending and more sound business policies anyway? Plus, how much will the tribe then have to spend on healthcare related to long-lasting marijuana use and the other adverse side effects that result in long-term drug use?
For those who think marijuana is a low-level drug that shouldn’t be taken seriously as something to prohibit, I would offer numerous extensive government studies saying otherwise. Both the CDC and NIH have conducted thorough studies showing the current and potential problems associated with both short- and long-term marijuana use. In fact, 1 in 10 marijuana users become addicted and that number rises to 1 in 6 for users under 18. Marijuana users do experience withdrawal symptoms just like many other heavy drugs. Marijuana users are also susceptible to lung cancer due to the high amount of tar inhaled. Marijuana use affects cognitive ability, and verbal reasoning, and has also been linked to a certain amount of car accidents where impairment was the primary factor.
I strongly urge you to reconsider the notion of allowing recreational use for our people. The lack of benefits of recreational use should be reason enough to forgo any type of vote. And with all the destruction that drug use has caused to our tribe, the last thing our people need is easier access.