I was sitting at the center of my unstable dining room table recently, nibbling on a pot brownie and watching the ugliness of this presidential campaign unfold on mainstream news, when I wondered: Where do Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton stand on the subject of medicinal or recreational marijuana operations on reservations?
So, I reached out to the Clinton camp for comment, and thus far they haven’t responded. They’re currently dealing with the backlash to Bill’s comment about how “the Black Lives Matter movement protects criminals,” said a fiscally conservative Clinton supporter I met here in Denver last night. Hillary’s Native American Advisor, Charlie Galbraith, told me last week by phone that it would go to one of Hillary’s senior staff campaign wizards to comment on the budding weed business in Indian country. Galbraith said he’d try to get me a response as soon as possible, but in journalism time that was years ago.
But Bernie’s folks responded within a matter of hours:
“Bernie supports the right for states to opt for legalization of marijuana, and as a strong supporter of tribal sovereignty, that same stance would apply to tribal nations as well,” Nicole Willis [Confederated Tribes of Umatilla], Sanders’s National Tribal Outreach Director, wrote in message.
“Senator Sanders fully supports tribal sovereignty and economic development initiatives in Native America,” Tara Houska [Couchiching First Nation], Native American Advisor to Sanders, and a fellow rabble rouser in her own right, said in a statement. “Marijuana decriminalization has significantly and positively impacted several state economies; sovereign tribal nations with strong, efficient regulatory and enforcement systems deserve this same opportunity.”
And still no call from the Clinton folks.
OK. The weed has kicked in now. Holy shit. I feel myself becoming one with the table. Am I turning into the tree from whence this table came? Or is the table turning into me? And how long has this commercial on the “increasing value of gold!” been on the tube? Feels like an hour, but it’s probably only been five minutes. Welcome to the west, ladies and jackals, where people are still crazy for gold more than 150 years after the mad rush that unleashed fleets of seedy sots, armed with chisels and bombs and Bibles, onto Native American families and our sacred sites.
Even today the descendants of these sots can be seen kneeling by rivers and creeks, clawing desperately into the soil, all the while praying to the patron saint of greed that He will bless them with urine-colored metal.
But of course it’s only a matter of time – after their knees go raw from kneeling and hands bleed from begging – that these Gollums eventually give up on the idea of ever grasping their Precious. They eventually realize that it’s time to let go of that shiny, shimmering shit and pray directly to the Weed God him- or herself. Change religions entirely. Right. Marijuana is a burgeoning industry all across in the U.S., and Whoopi Goldberg is the latest celebrity congregate to get high on the thought of striking it seriously rich. Since Goldberg is well aware that “Ghost” was her magnum opus, that thing we all will remember her by, she has recently thrown her millions from “The View” into The Pot in a last ditch effort to make the money she thought she SHOULD have made from that 90s romance blockbuster. Even now I still can’t look at raw clay or pottery without getting wildly horny, and I’m sure many men of my generation also suffer from random erections while passing through the gardening section at Home Depot. You can always rely on Hollywood to fuck you up one way or the other.
Hearken, the difference between Goldberg [and others who would boom into the weed game] and Native Americans eyeing the possibility of tilling the soil as marijuana farmers is that for indigenous folks, weed is not just about finances and keeping the heat on during the frigid winter months –
It’s also about exercising tribal sovereignty.
... And still no message from the Clinton wizards.
Normal people eye their phones hoping a lover will return their call. Not me. As a news and word junkie, I’m invariably cradling my cell praying to the ghost of Joseph Pulitzer that it’ll finally ring, and on the line will be that voice – that comment – I’ve been longing for. Indeed. A story doesn’t really take off until we, the journos, get the call back. In the meantime, you’re left with your caffeine and brownies and consistently vicious news blaring out of the tube watching the clock, listening to its heartless tick-tock, watching the minutes melt away into history, moments we’ll never live again.
“Right now will be a memory in just a moment.” Who said that? I did! Years ago, right around the time I missed my opportunity at telling then-“Nightly News” titan Brian Williams, since shamed and demoted to MSNBC co-anchor, that Westward Expansion, contrary to his foul opinion, was not romantic, but brutal and rotten and bigoted and bad for anyone not white Christian.
Either my phone just rang or there’s a periodic pinging going on somewhere in the deep recesses of my cerebellum. So I take a look – no. No Clinton folks. No email either. I think it’s safe to say we won’t get a comment, at least not anytime soon. I would’ve much rather eaten a pot brownie not made by a hippie who asks me about “spirit animals” every chance he gets. I told him his animal is a rat, and to not be ashamed of it. “A rat will do a lot of disgusting things,” the late wordsmith George Carlin once said. “But it will not fuck a dead rat.” That was from the comedian’s bit on necrophilia, and the decadent things humans do to amuse themselves. For me, it’s just a stroll through the gardening section of Home Depot.
Weed isn’t for everybody. And that’s fine, but one thing is for certain: We WILL see more separate sovereign indigenous communities greening their thumb with pot, which – unlike Goldberg and the rat – is an incontrovertible expression of Native American sovereignty.
My pot brownies are all gone. The tube has taken a break from the putrescence. Night fell when I wasn’t looking. And still no message from the Clinton skulls. It’s been more than a week now. Oh well. Let us assume Clinton makes it the general election, and let’s say she bullwhips the Orange Man or Teddy Boy, whichever of the two manages to bitch and cajole their way to the Republican candidacy. …
What WOULD Clinton’s administration do if the 567 federally-recognized tribes launched marijuana operations all at once? Would she “fully [support] tribal sovereignty and economic development initiatives in Native America,” as Houska said Bernie does? Or would we get a title, too? “Super” something or other? Would Americans hunker down in their homes, unsheathe their rifles and pistols and bombs, in fear of a massive Native American revolt? “Jeezus! They’ve got the money and the allies now to do it!” I can imagine a Trump jackal exclaiming. “I TOLD you this would happen! It was only a matter of time before they all got together and made some sort of Indian Army of their own! Five million seriously pissed off red folks! ... But maybe we’ll be OK. My great, great, great grandmother was, after all, a Cherokee princess. And THAT will be our Trojan Horse. Our way in to take them down. We weaseled our way in before, haven’t we? We can do it again. Get the Bible, honey! We’re on a mission from God. AMEN.”
Right. The hour is late [or is it early?] The drapes are drawn, so how would I know? Time to go to print anyway. The clock is a mean sonofabitch, and right now so am I. Therefore, I won’t answer any rap at my chamber door. “Quoth the raven, Nevermore!” BUT! I will hang onto this phone and make one final plea to the News Gods: “My kingdom for a Clinton comment!”
Nevertheless, I won’t leave you on a bad note. Not today. If we can’t have the facts we’ll have the fun! To wit: “Ghost” is available on Netflix. I just checked. So go make babies. Or pot brownies. No one high on pot ever dropped a bomb or launched a war when Doritos and Funyuns were nearby. Know your history.
Simon Moya-Smith, Oglala Lakota, is the Culture Editor at Indian Country Today. Follow him on Twitter @Simonmoyasmith.