Weed and the Haudenosaunee: What do we do?

Ontario residents will soon be sparking up legally.

This week the province announced the locations of its first legal cannabis retail stores — one is set to open doors in Hamilton next July.

What does that mean for Six Nations?

The colonial definition of cannabis as a drug began in 1908 with the “Opium Act”. Weed was not added to the prohibition until 1923 with the introduction of the “Act to Prohibit the Improper Use of Opium and other Drugs”.

Some cannabis historians argue that its prohibition is linked to racist ideas against the Chinese, promoted in a series of articles that appeared in Maclean’s magazine, arguing that immigrants from China would use cannabis to corrupt white women.

Others say the prohibition was in response to a worldwide ban on opioids that cannabis got rolled into — pun intended.

Nevertheless, pot remained absolutely illegal in Canada for just over 75 years.

Later research and the work of advocates eventually brought the medical community to a place where cannabis was approved for prescription use in Canada in 2001.

Cannabis is prescribed in Canada to treat hundreds of ailments — with notable positive effects in patients with epilepsy, chronic pain and post traumatic disorders. It has even been prescribed and administered safely to paediatric cancer patients.

Facing our 2017 reality, in just eight months recreational cannabis will be locally legally available to community members over the age of 19.

For those unfamiliar with the plan the province will sell loose cannabis products grown and packaged by licensed providers for smoking or making homemade edible products. You can even take it as a tea. There will also be commercially available edible products.

So what’s a Rez to do? Do we allow feds to take the lead and assimilate beneath Canada’s new normal? Or do we uphold a 75-year-old prohibition despite medical research suggesting marijuana is a true medicine?

The SNEC has their own pathway. They are intertwined with upholding certain provincial and federal standards. But the traditional leadership of the community have a bigger task at hand. What do they say?

Officially — nothing yet. In its 2015 statement the HCCC said “After careful reflection…the Hodiyanehsoh unanimously agreed that it would be in violation of our Creator given laws to support and encourage the use of Dega’nigohade:nyohs, “Mindchangers” (Alcohol and Drugs).”

So — now what? Does the HCCC follow Canada’s lead and change the Creator given definition of “Mindchangers” to no longer include cannabis?

Does the HCCC reject medical research that proves cannabis is a medicine? Are they embracing and sustaining the colonial construct of marijuana’s prohibition? Or does the Creator himself actually say this is how it is? And if it’s the former — who has the in with the Creator himself so we can get clarification on the matter?

If I drink weed tea, am I going to Haudenosaunee Hell?

HCCC absolutely needs to take their heads out of the religious sand on this one. If you don’t face the facts of our 2017 reality, the HCCC could find themselves in a governance pickle upholding the taboos of an older generation.

If HCCC wants to be the true government on Six Nations it needs to reconcile with its own people and operate with us in our current reality. And this means you can’t expect young adults to reject a legal substance because the Creator told an older generation it was wrong to use it.

Millennials expect choice when it comes to everything, but especially when it comes to religion. A research study put out in 2017 says the millennial generation rejects, and at best is indifferent to religion.

My personal opinion though, is that I’m not going to Haudenosaunee Hell. I think the Creator has bigger things in mind — including a happy, inclusive and decolonized future for all Haudenosaunee people.


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