Nine months ago, the Navajo Nation legalized hemp and made it a legitimate cash crop for desperate farmers. Now, the largest Indian reservation in the country is considering doing the same for medical cannabis and patients in need of it. The bill’s sponsor, Navajo Nation Council Delegate Lee Jack, Sr., claims an urgent economic and humanitarian need for the legalization of marijuana in Arizona.
Former Navajo Nation Vice-Presidential candidate, Dineh Benally, supports this measure unequivocally. He recently testified how the plant could have helped his mother during her final months of pain-ridden pancreatic cancer. This is good news for both Arizona and the Navajo Nation, as drafting legislation for the legalization of marijuana has significant scientific, industrial, economic, and medical benefits.
Navajo Nation and Medical Marijuana
The Navajo Nation, along with all other Native American tribes, has full sovereignty to decide on its own marijuana laws. In 2016, the Navajo signed a deal with CannaNative to cultivate hemp on an industrial scale. As for medical marijuana, the tribe has shown little interest in legalizing it in the past. In fact, the Navajo Nation rejected several attempts to adopt medical cannabis laws into its jurisdiction.
However, the Navajo appear to be changing their minds. CannaNative, an indigenous company advocating for the right of Native Americans to control their own marijuana industries, is influencing this rhetoric. The Navajo Nation stands to benefit enormously from legalizing medical weed, and the money it generates can resolve some of the Navajo’s most prolific problems, such as alcoholism and poverty.
With the assistance of CannaNative, the tribe is currently farming hemp on 70,000 acres of agricultural land. Legalizing medical marijuana will add a much-needed revenue stream for the tribe, which relies heavily on a slowing gaming industry for much of its needs. Casino numbers are dwindling, and while gaming has proven lucrative for the Navajo, cannabis promises significantly higher financial incentives.
Now that legalization is sweeping across the states, the Navajo Nation has a legal and efficient means to participate in the cannabis industry. In partnership with CannaNative, the Navajo can grow industrial hemp for an already existing market. Furthermore, they can take advantage of other retail opportunities to uplift impoverishment, including cannabidiol and THC extraction, and other medical initiatives.
Legalization of Marijuana in Arizona
The Navajo Nation is the second-largest Native American tribe recognized by the federal government, with the Cherokee being the biggest. At least 48 percent of Navajo Indians do not have jobs. Alcohol and drug abuse are rife. Violence, lack of services, crime, and more societal issues plague their people. The legalization of marijuana can be the income-generating solution for most of these problems.
Medical marijuana is already legal in Arizona and has been since 2010 already. The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act regulates all cannabis activity within the state, which houses approximately 100 state-licensed operating dispensaries and more than 40,000 legitimate cannabis patients. Overseen by the Arizona Department of Health Services, the system is robust and easily accessible for those who need it.
Currently, any patient with a qualifying illness may use medical weed in Arizona, provided he or she registers with the Department of Health Services, applies for a Medical Marijuana Card, and has a written letter of recommendation from a licensed marijuana doctor. Dispensaries must have operating licenses, and nobody can buy, sell, or gift anyone without state approval.
Qualifying patients may purchase 2.5 ounces of weed every fortnight. Those with permission to cultivate their own plants can grow up to 12 of them. Patients may not consume marijuana in public areas or facilities, including near buses, parks, and schools. You may not consume cannabis edibles in public places either. Adult-specific facilities may adopt their own cannabis rules for their premises.
You may not drive with marijuana in your system, even if you are a medical patient. If caught, you will likely face a DUI in Arizona. Employers may not punish patients if they test positive for cannabis unless the patient is an employee using, possessing, or otherwise behaving marijuana-impaired during working hours or on work premises. There is no health coverage for cannabis, as providers consider weed illegal.
Potential of Medical Marijuana for Navajo Nation
If the Navajo Nation decides to join Arizona and legalize medical cannabis, commercial opportunities will be plentiful. Trade between the peoples of Arizona and the Navajo Nation will benefit all involved. Statistics from legal states prove that legalized marijuana lowers drug and alcohol addiction rates while generating an income avenue for community infrastructure and upliftment.
The Navajo have an opportunity to strengthen their sovereignty by legalizing medical marijuana and controlling its commercial activities. It will create jobs for their majority unemployed communities, boost the tribe’s economic prospects, and provide the money needed to maintain a high quality of life. The world welcomes the Navajo Nation to the extremely lucrative legal cannabis market.