PINE RIDGE, S.D. — In a growing number of U.S. states, people can both drink alcohol and legally smoke recreational marijuana. In others, they can use alcohol but not pot. But on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, the opposite is true: Marijuana is legal, but booze is banned.
Citizens of the Oglala Sioux Tribe overwhelmingly voted in 2020 to legalize recreational and medical marijuana on their sprawling reservation, which has prohibited the sale and consumption of alcohol for more than 100 years.
Customers visiting a dispensary on a recent Friday said they view marijuana as a safe and natural way to obtain relief from mental health disorders and chronic illnesses, which are common among tribal citizens. But they said alcohol has wreaked havoc on the health, safety, and life expectancy of tribal members.
“Cannabis is a natural plant that comes from the Earth — and our people lived off the land, and they got their medicine from the land,” Ann Marie Beane said while shopping at the No Worries dispensary in the small town of Pine Ridge. “Our Indigenous people, they suffer a lot from diabetes and cancer and various other illnesses, but the cannabis really helps them.”
Beane and her 22-year-old daughter said they use marijuana to ease their anxiety.