By JOSH HOLLOWAY
Snowbird Community (currently living in Tennessee)
There is no benefit whatsoever when it comes to recreational use of marijuana. Not one. Legalizing any drug for nothing other than recreational use will serve no purpose and will do more harm than anything else. Some have suggested that marijuana sales could bring in more revenue for our tribe and our people. This is a disingenuous argument and aims to manipulate public sentiment into voting for legalization. Our tribal’s financial problems are not going to be answered by increasing revenue whenever our tribal leaders see fit. Instead, any money issues we have as a tribe can best be resolved by controlled spending and lots of it. Even if controlled spending may not appear to be a readily available solution, constructive spending for members of our tribe would be a vastly superior option to something as trivial as legalizing drugs. Imagine if our leaders would have spent 30 million dollars on land for houses for our people instead of marijuana. Even more astounding is that the annual tribal budget is several times more than that of the surrounding counties combined yet our tribe has a lot less people and we still have tribal leadership saying we need more money.
Problems associated with drug use don’t just magically go away because the drug becomes legal. Addiction and other health problems will continue to exist no matter the legal status of any drug. Legalization would only exacerbate these issues. Many supporters of recreational use indirectly point to the legalization of marijuana for self-medication. Self-medicating via recreational marijuana use is something no medical professional would ever recommend as there are numerous issues with self-diagnosis and a high propensity for drug abuse. We have seen what happens when people try to “self-medicate” with alcohol or prescription pills. What makes anyone think marijuana would be different? Medicinal use could be an avenue worth investigating but some of our tribal members are too busy fast-tracking and manipulating the whole process to serve their own self-interests. What’s baffling is the idea that someone would consider giving broad access to a known addictive drug to a population that already has a drug problem. Our people are still fighting substance issues and legalization would only make this fight more difficult by making marijuana widely available. What we do know from recent studies is that the legalization of marijuana in certain states also causes an increase in use among adults and minors in those states.
Most people understand that addiction is a multi-faceted problem that often requires different types of intervention. A concrete logic that is often left out of the debate is that no one can exhibit addictive behaviors to drugs unless they’re directly exposed to that substance. In other words, no one can become addicted to a drug that they don’t have access to. Even Harvard Medical School has said as much. Our primary focus as a tribe should be trying to limit or restrict access to drugs to prevent addiction among our people. Anyone who has ever tried to quit smoking will tell you it would have been a lot easier if they had never started.
The debate around the war on drugs consists of weirdly conflated ideas that because we somehow “failed” at combating drug use we should simply abandon the idea of eliminating drug abuse from our society and legalize marijuana. This logic makes absolutely no sense and would only increase drug use, not reduce it. Think about this – the argument goes that to reduce drug abuse and addiction we should actually make drugs easier to obtain. Dumbfounding would be a huge understatement.
With all the resources we have as a tribe, it is unfathomable to think that legalization is what we are focusing so heavily on. This can’t possibly be the legacy we leave to future generations. What we need are responsible leaders who can control themselves when it comes to tribal dollars. What we need is someone who can resist spending millions of tribal dollars on an illegal drug that is doing nothing but draining tribal resources to house and maintain. What we need is leadership who will use tribal resources that lead to productive and positive environments for our people. More than anything, what we need is to make actual investments in our people and protect our children’s futures by voting NO on recreational use.