The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council made history this week when it voted in favor of legalizing recreational cannabis on reservation territory.
The ordinance was passed in an 11 to eight vote from the council, and it permits the use of cannabis for both medical patients and people ages 21 and older. The tribe will have the power to both cultivate and dispense cannabis as means of production for the community.
Additionally, Oglala Sioux land is located in South Dakota, where voters have chosen to approve both medical and recreational cannabis on a statewide scale. Currently, the numbers show that most South Dakota residents support legal cannabis, and a narrow margin supports recreational cannabis.
This new ordinance will become official 30 days from the time of approval, making the Oglala Sioux Tribe the first Native American group to successfully legalize cannabis in a state that is not yet legal (at the time). “I am most hopeful that the timing of the passage of this ordinance will have a positive influence on the medical and legalization initiatives on the ballot next week in South Dakota,” says NORML Legal Committee member Leland Berger prior to the election.
It’s no surprise that this tribal group, and the state in general, is considering making a change. Former laws in South Dakota mark cannabis possession as a Class 1 misdemeanor and could be punished with prison time or a fine. According to South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, in 2018 one out of every 10 arrests were cannabis-related. The organization’s report examines other important facts about how the War on Drugs has negatively impacted residents, and the strain it can take on the state as a result.
With the implementation of a huge legislative milestone like this one, many tribes will be looking to the Oglala Sioux Tribe for direction on legalization in the future.