As efforts to legalize recreational cannabis sweep the nation, the Catawba Indian Nation of North Carolina is preparing to become the latest tribe to weigh in and decide on whether or not to allow its tribal members to use and purchase cannabis for recreational purposes. On April 15th, the tribe will take part in a historic vote to determine the future of cannabis within the tribe’s territory. This decision could have far-reaching implications, not only for the Catawba Indian Nation, but for the entire state of North Carolina.
1. North Carolina: Move Toward Legal Cannabis
North Carolina has been taking cautious steps toward legalized cannabis. While some counties have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana, the state has yet to green-light the broader medical and recreational use of cannabis. Still, there are some promising developments in the works.
- In 2019, the NC Industrial Hemp Commission approved 22 pilot programs to investigate the potential of hemp farming in the state.
- HB 401 launched in 2020, making way for the medical use of cannabis.
- State Senate Bill 858 was proposed to legalize the possession, use and sale of marijuana.
These progressive efforts are creating new opportunities by creating jobs, spurring economic development and offering promising options for medical care. The bill’s success, if passed, would eventually lead to a total free market for cannabis in North Carolina.
- The state currently has some of the strictest marijuana laws in the country.
- Revenue from a legal cannabis market could benefit health care, education and criminal justices systems.
2. Native American Tribe Set to Vote on Recreational Use
The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation, often familiarly known as the Three Affiliated Tribes, are preparing to vote on the possibility of legalizing recreational marijuana use on their reservation. The ballot measure, put forth by tribal officials, would legalize all adult recreational marijuana use within tribal boundaries, make possession, cultivation, and sale of marijuana legal, and allow for its regulation.
The Three Affiliated Tribes, located in Fort Berthold, North Dakota, would be the first Native American tribe to legally regulate recreational marijuana. If this ballot measure is approved, it could be a major step forward for other Native American tribes considering marijuana regulation.
Voters on the reservation, come November, will have the power to make history. This ballot measure, if approved, would not only create a sense of economic security and job opportunities, but would also represent a shift in the tribe’s cultural and social environment. Many see this measure as a way forward for self-determination and true sovereignty within the reservation.
- Legalize adult recreational marijuana use
- Allow possession, cultivation, sale of marijuana
- Create economic security and job opportunities
- Represent shift in cultural and social environment
- Step forward for self-determination and sovereignty
3. Indigenous Communities Navigate Cannabis Legislation
As legal cannabis becomes an ever-increasing part of the North American landscape, Indigenous communities have understandably been keen to capitalize on these new markets. Even so, their position on the drug has often been a precarious one. To ensure regulation and compliance, many Indigenous communities have explored the ways in which they can navigate the new legal world of cannabis.
For Indigenous communities, the main goal in managing cannabis use is to strike a balance between traditional values and practical needs. To this end, many have taken up collectivist approaches to regulating the drug, with many seeking to run the industry themselves. The focus of many Indigenous communities is thus on providing access while safeguardingsocial control and responsibility.
- Gaining access to new commercial markets
- Creating governing systems that reconcile traditional values and practical needs
- Protecting traditional knowledge and harvesting environment
- Ensuring their own self-determination
Among the tasks Indigenous communities look to address with regards to legal cannabis include:
- Taxation rights
- Access to financial resources
- Social programs associated with the industry
- Creating businesses that will generate economic development and,
- General legal compliance
Ultimately, the aim of Indigenous communities is share in the economic opportunities that the legal cannabis industry provides, while keeping an eye on broader values of cultural, social, economic and environmental sustainability.
4. North Carolina Tribe Ready to Make History With Upcoming Vote
This November, the Lumbee tribe in North Carolina will make history as their members have the chance to vote in an election for a United States Representative to local government. This is the first time the tribe’s official members have had the chance to make their voices heard in the electoral system, an exciting milestone that marks a long journey for the tribal nation.
The Lumbee tribe is the largest tribe in the US to not have legal recognition from the federal government, meaning they have been excluded from many of the rights and benefits other federally-recognized tribes enjoy. They have been denied the right to vote in the past, until a historic lawsuit in 2019 granted them the right to make their voices heard in the elective process.
- Essential Benefits: With federal recognition, the Lumbee Tribe is finally eligible to access essential benefits from the US government such as educational support, healthcare, social services, and other economic opportunities.
- Representation: This year’s election will provide the Lumbees with the first opportunity to have direct representation in Congress. This will be a huge step forward in officially recognizing the tribe’s sovereignty.
Today’s vote marks a stunning move by the North Carolina tribe, whetting the appetite of avid cannabis advocates across the nation. Whatever the outcome of the vote, it’s clear that tribal leaders have set a powerful example for the rest of the country to follow on their path towards cannabis reform.