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Dispensary’s Involvement Creates ‘Pot Powwow’ Controversy

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Tribal nations host a Gathering of Nations, known as the “Gathering.” It’s considered to be the largest powwow in North America. Hundreds of tribes are represented at the event. But controversy sparked when organizers announced their partnership with Ultra Health dispensaries.

Ultra Health entered into a 5-year contract with the Gathering, according to The Atlantic. Now, the event is being coined “the pot powwow.” Ultra Health has contributed monetarily to the event which will help keep it going.

Some tribal nations are suffering economically; Duke Rodriguez of Ultra Health believes that the marijuana industry may help get them out of poverty status. Tribal nations were given the option, by the DOJ in 2014, to legalize marijuana cultivation and sales if they so choose.

Rodriguez said, “If I wanted to build a non-tribal venture, I’d have to go out and buy a large piece of land. Tribes already own these holdings.”

Rodriguez also wants to dig deeper into Native American culture and its marijuana market. Native Americans traditionally prefer natural medicines to pharmaceuticals. Some of the tribal nations are on-board with Ultra Health, others remain skeptical. The Las Vegas Paiute tribe is just one partner in the project with dozens more discussing the option with Ultra Health.

Rodriguez said, “There’s no stopping it. This is the Superbowl of Indian country. Tribes are leading the way in the cannabis business, and I think people are tickled by it.”

Director for the Center for Global Tobacco Control, Vaughan Rees, is concerned that marijuana being present or discussed at the powwow encourages experimentation with drugs.

Rees said, “They’re integrating their branding into the Native American community, and they’re promoting the idea that these products are safe, and something that everybody does, and that changes social norms. That makes the job of the people whose mission to reduce the introduction of drugs or other potentially risky behavior more difficult.”

Some claim that the way that Native Americans have been mistreated and misunderstood in recent and distant history makes the demographic group more susceptible to drug abuse. Some are concerned that participating in the marijuana industry will create a bigger drug addiction problem and will lead to younger people experimenting with drugs. However, studies showing legal medical marijuana reduces opioid death and usage is something Tribes may consider.

Ultra Health has been clear that it is not marketing marijuana to children.

Rodriguez said, “Cannabis is not good for a developing brain. The science is clear on that, and for anybody to be marketing cannabis to young people is irresponsible.”