Tribal Sovereignty just went up in smoke. Marijuana smoke. The news is out in Indian country that the Feds will allow tribal nations to legalize pot on their reservations. And depending whether you see the bong water as half empty or half-full, this ruling brings huge economic potential and equally huge social pitfalls.
Some people would say you’d have to be high not to consider allowing marijuana growing and sales. So far, though, according to media reports, only three tribes have expressed interest in entering the weed business.
From a marketing standpoint, marijuana as a product needs almost no advertising with its loyal and growing customer base. And of course, the brand logo needs no explanation. A marijuana leaf is as recognizable as a Nike swoosh.
Whichever tribes legalize pot first, I’m guessing they will see a lot of new faces showing up at their powwows and public gatherings. Single Indian men and women could suddenly become the most popular people on Match.com. And, if Cheech and Chong Rez book more tribal casino shows, some of their fans may never want to leave the rez.
Tribal smoke shops would be seeing a lot of new business. Tribal hotels might start offering a "Stay and Smoke" package. Casino giveaways could get interesting. I can hear it now: "Congratulations Bob Kincaid you are a grand prize winner. You can take the $20,000 check, the 2015 Mustang or the big bale of Rosebud Bud."
Some tribes could start branding their own variety of pot. Five years from now, High Times magazine could be selecting their top Native pot strains from entries like LaPush Kush, Apache Gold, Kickapoo Kickass and Lummi Yummy.
Whether or not you agree with this decision, I think we can all agree that’s a good thing anytime the federal government moves to let Indian nations control their own affairs. Let’s just hope marijuana legalization isn’t too much of a good thing.
Suzan Shown Harjo and Richard Ray Whitman. Photo by Vicki Monks
Marc Yaffee, "adopted at birth and confused ever since," is a touring comedian who has appeared on Showtime and performed for troops stationed in the Middle East. Yaffee, Navajo, is a founding member of the Pow Wow Comedy Jam. Visit laughwithmarc.com to find out where he'll be performing or purchase his latest CD, Chucklelicious.