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2016-01-14 / Voices

A Note From The Editor’s Desk

BRANDON ECOFFEY
Oglala Lakota Times Editor

Hot news topics come and go but the fact that marijuana reform is happening all across the United States is quite obvious. Although we do not know how this will play itself out in Lakota country, there are still many questions that we all must ponder about what is taking place.

The wait and see approach taken by the Oglala Sioux Tribe on marijuana reform has resulted in a stagnant economy remaining in status quo. The simple truth of the matter is that the legalization of the marijuana is soon to be inevitable in all 50 states as Congress loosens its grip on its love of prosecuting poor and minority people for petty crimes and states continue to reap financial profits from it . Both state and federal governments are realizing that it is just too expensive to shell out money to lock up non-violent offenders. For tribes like the Oglala Sioux who operate their criminal justices systems on limited budgets, the lesson to be learned is that the expenditure of resources on petty drug offenses is not only poor policy, but also financially unsustainable.

Since I last wrote on this subject there has been a case study develop right here in South Dakota. The Flandreau Sioux Tribe attempted to open up a marijuana resort but at the last second bailed on the project after federal officials indicated that they would raid Flandreau’s facilities due to concerns over the fact that non-Natives were growing, providing the seeds, and would have the ability to purchase the product once it was put up for sale.

These are the same federal law enforcement officials who failed to secure a conviction of former Oglala Sioux Tribal police officer Bekki Sotherland for torturing Jefferson Eagle Bull during an arrest, the same officials who have failed to indict anybody over the millions that disappeared from Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s EB-5 program, and the same officials who have been unable to significantly deter violent crime on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for years.

Ultimately, this issue is about of tribal sovereignty, but it is also about how both state and federal governments work together to decide which communities are allowed to lift themselves out from under the burden of mass poverty. The state of South Dakota has absolutely no problem with allowing non-Native ranching and farming communities contaminating groundwater, nor do the feds care that that towns like Yankton depend on a steady supply of minority drug offenders to sustain their local economy that is based on the proliferation of mass incarceration. Even South Dakota’s bountiful tourist industry is rooted in mass genocide and the theft of hundreds of millions of acres of land from Native people. It should not come as a surprise that the sentry guarding this country’s wealth is dressed as a DEA agent. Only white people in Colorado and Oregon are allowed to profit from marijuana, right?

Of course there are the detractors who still buy in to the hype that marijuana is a substance that is inherently evil. Ironically, these are the people who should also be jumping on the legalization bandwagon as well. At this very moment pretty much anyone on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, in Rapid City, or and other large town in this state can purchase marijuana from a street level dealer. These dealers operate independent of any regulating authority placing both consumers and juveniles at risk. Legalization will eliminate the need for such risky behavior and place a barrier between youth and the product that has never been there before.

For a place like Pine Ridge where addiction rates are through the roof, this common sense approach is far more applicable than inhumane policies like banishment. *Brandon Ecoffey is the editor of LCT and an award winning journalist who was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

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