Medical Marijuana Farming by Native Americans – Why Not?


“Why is marijuana against the law? It grows naturally upon our planet. Doesn’t the idea of making nature against the law seem to you a bit . . . unnatural?”―Bill Hicks

Medical marijuana farming on reservations - Cannabis moves closer to nature.

Pinoleville Pomo Nation.

It’s the first Indian tribe that plans to venture into medical marijuana farming. While many other tribes are planning to make their move, Pinoleville Pomo Nation, a reservation that’s spread on a rather tiny piece of land that measures 99 acres, has already decided to go ahead with it. That they are located in California, where marijuana has already been legalized, may have something to do with their gumption. However, I also think that 70 people living on 99 acres and farming on a measly 2.5 acres cannot really make a living by growing corn on it. The approximate corn-yield per acre is 150 bushel and at a price of $3.75, they would stand to earn about $1500. When they grow Marijuana on it it they can expect it to yield about 500 lbs of marijuana per acre, and at a price of $2500 per pound, they can expect to be paid $312500 or $3Million per crop. For marijuana production cost is about 10% of the revenue, they would still be left with $2.8 Million.

$1500 vs. $3Million?

I don’t think there’s a contest. While the example I took here was stark, but it tells us why the tribes would take this opportunity despite the “obvious risks” that the experts have been citing.

The Pinoleville Pomo Nation tribe hopes to use this money for child-care, health, education etc. 3 Million over 70 people is about $42K. It makes excellent sense. With regulations in force, it could be a win-win situation for the producers and also for the patients who require medical marijuana.

And yet, there’s many a slip between the cup and the lip, and in this case, the slip is in form of those who stand between the growers and the consumers. The Indian tribes would require help with everything…right from the word go. They’d need support in terms of the infrastructure, the seeds, and the technical and managerial knowhow to keep the gears moving. And for this, big companies would be stepping in. In the case of Pinoleville Pomo Nation, this company is FoxBarry, who are working with about a 100 tribes, consulting and facilitating their move. In turn, they seek exclusive distribution rights from the producers.

A comparative case-study is that of the tribals in Manipur, India. Manipur is one of the four Indian states that share their borders with Myanmar (erstwhile Burma.) For decades, cross border smuggling of merchandise and drugs had been happening, but in the recent decade, some villages have discovered a new, more lucrative crop that they now grow in their fields. You guessed it right. It’s cannabis. They grow cannabis, and then right from under the noses of the law-enforcement, marijuana is smuggled out to rest of India to their west and to Myanmar to their east. These little villages make more money farming and selling weed than they were making when they were growing paddy.

The illegality of the whole operation turns this picture murky; the Manipuri tribals who engage in the farming of marijuana do it with complete awareness of the possible repercussions, but they do it nevertheless. Why? Because they can spend that extra money on making their lives better, especially as the only thing they can do out there is farming.

By extension, despite all the red-flags and the probable risks, the Indian tribes too are going to go ahead and cultivate marijuana. And frankly, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t. They’ve done their cost-benefit analysis and I am sure they have their risk-mitigation plan in order. What we mustn’t forget is that they are a lot closer to nature than the city-dwelling law-makers are, and perhaps this is why they deserve to cultivate this beautiful gift of nature.