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Marijuana latest vice for tribes to exploit?
The Omaha Tribe is considering a new tactic to strengthen self-reliance and cultural identity.
Or, it's attempting to capitalize on the "growing" tolerance of marijuana, depending on your point of view.
Tribal members Tuesday to legalize marijuana for medicinal and recreational use and to grow industrial hemp. Leaders are now considering reservation land in western Iowa for growing the plant.
It's nothing new for tribes to capitalize on our vices, operating casinos near areas where they are not allowed.
But it's hard to fault tribes for trying to improve their lot, especially after considering the White Clay beer sales and economic conditions on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
If the Omahas do proceed with the marijuana enterprise, it may be because they saw more good than harm in the Flandreau Santee Sioux's marijuana resort about 45 miles north of Sioux Falls, S.D.
Omaha Tribe officials can't say whether their Blackbird Bend casino could be expanded into a similar resort.
They say they'll work with attorneys and law enforcement agencies in Nebraska and Iowa to avoid legal problems.
Wehona Stabler of the Carl T. Curtis Health Education Center in Macy says wild hemp flourishes on the Omaha reservation, and marijuana offers a welcome link to the tribe's heritage.
"Western medicine that we promote now is not ours," Stabler said. "This was forced on us by the government -- the Indian Health Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs."
She says tribal members would benefit from medical marijuana as an alternative treatment for cancer, diabetes, epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder.
If Nebraska's experience with Colorado is any guide, marijuana crossing exiting the Omaha reservation will join the issue of beer entering the Pine Ridge as problems to be solved.