Last year, Eastern Shoshone tribal members were gearing up for a potential vote on the legalization of medical marijuana at the Wind River Reservation, but COVID-19 devastated the reservation and doomed all public gatherings.
Now, the General Council will reconvene on Saturday to put the matter to a vote. Eastern Shoshone tribal member and So-go-Beah Naht-Su — “mother earth and medicine” in Shoshone — member Bobbi Shongutsie said she is “80%” optimistic that the resolution will pass.
Seventy-five tribal members will need to attend for there to be a quorum.
Shongutsie’s agenda includes:
- To legalize medical cannabis under the Cole and Wilkinson Memorandum
- Decriminalize medical cannabis from the Law and Order Codes of the Shoshone & Arapaho Tribes
- To create a regulation commission for medical cannabis
So-go-Beah Naht-Su has advocated for the economic and medical benefits of hemp, CBD and medical marijuana to Eastern Shoshone leaders and tribal members for a few years, but Shongutsie and the group will make a final lobbying effort on Thursday when a public forum at Rocky Mountain Hall will be held.
“It’s not just Shoshone tribal members that are interested; it’s the whole community,” Shongutsie said.
Some of the older generations, Shongutsie said, have been researching the benefits of CBD and medical marijuana and want them for medical purposes.
“They like taking CBD, rather than taking a pill,” she said. “They’ve been using that on their joints for rheumatoid arthritis or pain from diabetes” and other illnesses.
And she’s hopeful that legalization will be an economic boon to the community, where tribal members and those employed through the reservation’s five casinos have experienced financial hardship and instability throughout the past year.
“When I talk to the younger generation, 18-30, they want jobs because (once they leave) high school, (they say) ‘There’s nothing for us, there’s nothing to do,’ and they don’t want to work at the casinos because that’s not a promised job anymore,” Shongutsie said.
When she was a little girl, Shongutsie recalled taking summer trips to Colorado State University, where kids from the reservation had the potential to earn a full-ride scholarship. Now, that program has been defunded. However, Shongutsie hopes that sales from medical marijuana could reinvigorate educational programs on the reservation.
“We need a stronger foundation in education to help kids succeed,” she said. “I feel that there’s a gap between graduating high school and moving on to college. There needs to be a bridge to help Native American students.”
Jordan Dresser, chairman of the Northern Arapaho Business Council, added that for a change to be made in the Shoshone and Arapaho Law and Order Code, both tribes must vote on it.
“We’ll be watching closely,” he said.
Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho adult tribal members hold ultimate sway over tribal affairs and moderate business councils. Business Councils, meanwhile, are elected and handle day-to-day governing. Eastern Shoshone tribal government representatives did not respond to requests for comment.
Michael Pearlman, communications director for Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, said the governor has not had the opportunity to review the tribe’s agenda for legalizing medical marijuana. Support among Wyomingites for marijuana legislation has been growing. A poll by the University of Wyoming showed that more than half of the state’s residents supported the legalization of recreational marijuana.
Wyoming has become increasingly surrounded by states who have legalized marijuana to some extent. Last year, residents in Montana and South Dakota voted in favor of legalization, though the South Dakota decision remains tied up in the courts. Colorado is approaching a decade of legalization.