Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

"Native Americans & Cannabis: History, Religion, Fraud, & the Future"

The title of this post is the title of a presentation to be made by one of my students in my Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform seminar this coming week.  Here is part of her explanation of her topic and links to some background reading:

   Native Americans have a tricky and unique history with cannabis. Indians have always used “teaching plants.” And almost every single ceremonial herb used by Indians has been illegal at some point in the United States: salvia, peyote, mullen, mints, and sage.  In particular, cannabis is more controversial, given its growing popularity in the United States by non-Natives.  Cannabis is considered a sacred herb in many tribes, but not all tribes.  For example, the First Nation tribe uses it in rituals, some tribes claim great visionaries used it with their sacred pipes, and other tribes, such as the Dakota and Lakota tribes, state that their medicine men have never used cannabis as a part of their ceremonies.

   There has recently been a rise in "cannabis churches,” with the most controversial church, the Oklevueha Native American Church, leading such controversy.  The church was founded by James “Flaming Eagle” Mooney.  Mooney claims to have native American ancestry, but does not have any official tribal affiliation.  The church is comparable to the fundamentalist mormons: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints does not condone of affiliate itself with fundamentalist mormons, and the National Council of Native American churches released a statement, advising the public that it does not “condone the activities of the illegitimate organization.”  This complicates Indian history, as some tribes may wish to use it as a sacrament, and others use the Oklevueha church as a scapegoat and a reason to ban cannabis on its tribes.

   U.S. courts have previously ruled that cannabis being used as a religious sacrament does not give tribes the right to use it.  Overall, my goal is to: 1) explain the history of peyote, ayahuasca, and cannabis in Native American culture; 2) describe the use, or lack thereof, of cannabis and how it differs from tribe to tribe; 3) describe the rise of “cannabis churches” generally, with a focus on the Oklevueha Native American Church, and the legal troubles they have faced; 4) the legal argument to allow Indian churches to use cannabis as a sacrament or a ritual herb, and the legal argument to prohibit Indian churches from using cannabis as a sacrament or a ritual herb; and 5) the potential implications which it would have on tribes in the future.

 

Background Resources:

 

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/marijuana_law/2019/03/native-americans-cannabis-history-religion-fraud-the-future.html

Assembled readings on specific topics, Race, Gender and Class Issues, Who decides | Permalink

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