Native American Tribe in Oregon Sees Hope With Marijuana

Native American Tribe in Oregon Sees Hope With Marijuana

As marijuana laws expand across the West, a handful of tribes in Nevada and Washington state have explored selling cannabis at dispensaries.

March 7, 2018

Many tribes for years have turned a wary eye at legalized cannabis, mindful of the substance abuse problems that have plagued many Native American populations.

But in 2015, recreational use of marijuana in Oregon became legal, and selling it became good business.

As marijuana laws expand across the West, a handful of tribes in Nevada and Washington state have explored selling cannabis at dispensaries, both on and off reservations. But no tribe is as far along in the process of becoming a fully operating venture as the one here at Warm Springs.

Spearheaded by younger tribal members who are eager to join the legalization movement sweeping the country, the tribe has taken steps to become the first vertically integrated Native American cannabis operation—growing marijuana on the reservation and selling it off-site.

The effort has detractors, particularly elders who worry about substance abuse and bristle at the idea of inviting more federal scrutiny to their land. But they are hardly being heard in the push to explore this new opportunity.

The tribe's pro-marijuana effort began in 2015, after Oregon voters legalized the sale and possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. As cannabis shops and grow facilities popped up across the state, Carina Miller, a lifelong resident of the reservation made up of 5,000 members of the Wasco, Warm Springs and Paiute tribes, watched as the economy and quality of life declined on the reservation.

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