Turns out that while the tribal commercial arm will build a 30,000 square foot indoor farm and sell tribal cannabis at stores around Oregon, pot will remain illegal to possess and consume on tribal property, for tribal members and visitors alike. In what seems like a perfect example of the kind of nearsighted policy-making that thinkers like Dr. Michelle Alexander have warned about, it appears that the Warm Springs Tribe, cynically or out of misguided intention, is screwing over the people who were most harmed by prohibition.
Now, it can never be over-repeated that Native American tribes have experienced a holocaust in this country, one without end. They have been so fucked over by the states and the feds alike for so long that any opportunity to rebuild should be celebrated, especially one as promising as cannabis. Certainly if casinos provided a lifeline at great social costs, cannabis offers a more positive and sustainable path to prosperity. And yes, with unemployment on the Warm Springs reservation ranging anywhere from nearly 20% according to the state of Oregon + 70% according to tribal estimates, a booming pot biz could have a wonderful impact on tribal unemployment and that is incredibly important in addressing all sorts of ills.
No one need envy the challenges of running a tribe. It sounds hellish. No doubt the Tribe’s elders and advisors carved out a Faustian bargain with investors, feds, and others, going long on big promises of revenue by cashing in the stubbornly fading loyalties to a failed drug war. My only hope is that wiser hearts and heads prevail before it is too late to change course.