Red Lake Nation approves medical cannabis
May 29, 2020
A historic vote for an Ojibwe tribe in Minnesota revealed mass support for medical cannabis.
Red Lake Nation citizens voted on Wednesday in favor of medical cannabis on tribal land with 80 percent approval. The results were 1,765 in favor and 425 against, according to the tribe's election board. A simple majority was needed.
The results make the tribe one of the first in Minnesota to have a medical cannabis program.
Cannabis advocate Kevin Jones, Red Lake, said he helped gather the required 2,500 signatures as part of a petition to get the referendum question on the ballot. Once the petition was presented earlier this year, the tribal council passed a resolution to include the question.
"It just shows that our people have a voice and the people can be heard," Jones said. "It's going to be a journey, a new path for all of us."
The new law goes beyond Minnesota's state medical marijuana program and includes cannabis in flower form. Minnesota allows medical cannabis in liquid, pill or vaporized forms and recent legislation on expansion was voted down. Red Lake will also have a longer list of approved diagnoses to be eligible for a medical cannabis prescription, Jones said.
Opioid addiction recovery would be one of them, he said.
"I hope it helps the opioid crisis, we got hit hard with that," Jones said. "I hope that changes a lot of it and helps families bring parents, aunties and uncles back to where they were before. It won't bring the ones we lost back but will make a new path for the ones on that journey today."
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Jones, who also organized the Chippewa Cannabis Party, said he's working to get recreational marijuana approved on the reservation and the election victory will help that cause.
Since 2014, when the Justice Department eased marijuana restrictions, some tribes across Indian Country have gotten into the medical and recreational marijuana business. The Las Vegas Paiute Tribe opened its first marijuana dispensary in 2017.
Dalton Walker, Red Lake Anishinaabe, is a national correspondent at Indian Country Today. Follow him on Twitter - @daltonwalker