08.06.15

Senator Lankford Introduces Bill To Reduce Illegal Drug Use On Tribal Lands

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today announced the introduction of the KIDS Act, a bill to help reduce illegal drug use on Tribal lands. KIDS Act (S. 1984) stands for ‘Keeping out Illegal Drugs Act of 2015.’  Specifically, the bill would prohibit Indian tribes and tribal organizations that cultivate, manufacture, or distribute illegal marijuana on Indian land from receiving any federal funds. Currently,some tribes around America are experimenting with various forms of illegal marijuana cultivation.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Native Americans are more likely than any other ethnic group in the United States to die from drug-induced deaths. And according to the HHS Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Office of Tribal Affairs, the rate of substance dependence or abuse among people aged 12 and up is 14% higher among the Native American population than among other ethnic groups in America.

“During an Indian Affairs Committee hearing last week, we heard testimony about the devastating effects of illegal drugs in Indian Country,” said Lankford. “The Native American community experiences the highest drug induced death rate in the country. It is important for our nation to help address this issue for the sake of the next generation of Native Americans. This legislation is a good step in trying to protect young tribal members and fulfill our Trust responsibility to Native Americans.”

On June 29, the Indian Affairs Committee, of which Lankford serves on, held an oversight hearing entitled, "Examining the True Costs of Alcohol and Drug Abuse in Native Communities." Robert G. McSwain, Principal Deputy Director of the Indian Health Service, testified that Native Americans tend to begin using alcohol and drugs at a younger age, use them more often and in higher quantities, and experience more negative consequences from them compared with other ethnic groups in America. Mirtha Beadle, Director of the HHS Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Office of Tribal Affairs and Policy,testified that alcohol and substance use, as well as mental health issues and suicide, continue to be among the most severe health and social problems Native Americans face.

During the hearing, former Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, John P. Walters, discussed at length about the dire need to reject the legalization of marijuana production and sale in Tribal communities. Walters said, “Allowing the cultivation, production, and sale of marijuana on Native lands, either through programs of so called medical marijuana dispensing or by outright commercial legalization, would be perversely the wrong thing to do, and would actively foster harm.”

Walters continued, “Some have argued that Native communities might benefit economically from being allowed to operate commercial operations involving marijuana, the cultivation and sale of, which might generate jobs and tax revenue for those on Reservations,” said Walters. “It is my judgment that such benefits are illusory, and that whatever economic benefit is promised will be overwhelmed by the accompanying criminal justice and public health costs that will accrue to communities that pursue such paths. Experience has shown us that in the presence of legalized marijuana markets, price declines, availability increases, prevalence rates rise, and one still finds the operation of a criminal black market. Potential financial savings from legalization and taxation fail to account for the economic and social costs of drug use.”

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