The Use of Medical Cannabis is now legal in Blackfeet Nation despite Substance Abuse Crisis
The government of the Blackfeet Nation, found in the northwest of Montana, made an amendment to its Constitution to permit its members to have access to legal medical marijuana. This small shift addresses the nation’s law which bans the sale, possession, and utilization of harsh substances, establishing an exception for medical cannabis only.
An amendment to decriminalize the possession of medical marijuana was passed after a proposal by the Executive Committee and the Tribal Business Council of the Blackfeet Nation. Tribal jurisdiction makes First Nations be to pass laws that are different from their neighboring states’. However, according to US laws, First Nations are still subject to federal jurisdiction. Therefore, many of them are shy to legalize medical cannabis before their neighboring states or even in accordance with them.
In 2004, Montana legalized the use of medicinal marijuana in and updated its program in 2016. But the use of medical cannabis is still illegal on the Blackfeet Reservation. In 2014, Obama era Justice Department indicated a shift in the posture of the federal enforcement, embracing a hands-off policy that would allow tribal administrations to make their own cannabis policy. However, in 2016 the Trump administration led by the anti-cannabis extremist Jeff Sessions, reignited fears of a federal crackdown.
However, due to feedback from members of the community, the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council made a decision to permit members to buy and possess medical cannabis. This means members of the Blackfeet nation can legally buy and carry medical cannabis treatments on the Blackfeet Reservation, given that the members purchase marijuana from a licensed cannabis doctor and dispensary in Montana. The production, sale, distribution, and any transaction which deals with cannabis is still prohibited under Ordinance 95 of the Blackfeet Constitution.
The resolutions final clause cites the recent medical marijuana data, specifically since it’s associated with pain relief and other options to dangerous prescription medications. The final clause of the resolution states that “the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council acknowledges and respects patient rights, to choose lawful alternative medicine as prescribed by a medical board-certified physician.”
Those arguments are similar to the ones made by lawmakers made in New York when they included opioid replacement as a condition to qualify for medical cannabis. And these arguments are also similar to those made by many caregivers, patients, veterans and even professional athletes.
When the Blackfeet Nation amended the “dangerous drugs” ordinance, a drug and alcohol abuse state of emergency was announced by the council. Due to that announcement, the decision of the council not to instantly declare the decriminalization of medical cannabis is understandable. According to a report from the Great Falls Tribune, the state of the emergency announcement was due to the Silent Warriors, an effort to limit drug and alcohol abuse by local grassroots.
The conventional medicinal and healing activities of the Native Americans are highly marginalized by the holders of Western medical practice, although those activities and the wisdom on which they’re built have made solid contributions to American medicine. Currently, the United States is beginning to welcome knowledge concerning cannabis after long years of prohibition. However, Native Americans have always known about the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of natural and herbal medicines, like marijuana. Hopefully, access to medical marijuana will relieve the members of the Blackfeet Nation who are suffering from critical illness and probably help to battle against substance abuse.