Navajo Nation lawmakers hope to formally oppose Arizona bill seeking to legalize recreational marijuana

WINDOW ROCK - Health, Education, and Human Services Committee (HEHSC) members want the Navajo Nation to formally oppose a bill in the Arizona Legislature that would make the recreational use of Marijuana legal in Arizona.

The committee voted 3-0 March 11 to approve Legislation No. 0071-14, requesting the Navajo Nation oppose Arizona H.B. 2558.

On Feb. 3, Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego D-Phoenix (District 27), introduced the bill which outlines provisions for the taxation and regulation of marijuana within the state of Arizona.

If approved, the bill would also permit individuals 21 years of age or older to consume, purchase, and transport as much as an ounce of marijuana and allow individuals to grow as many as five marijuana plants. However, the use of marijuana in public would remain prohibited.

Legislation sponsor Council Delegate Jonathan Hale (Oak Springs, St. Michaels) said the legalization of marijuana would add to the many problems the Nation already faces like substance abuse and domestic violence.

"We're not in a capacity to allow such because we already see the effects of alcohol, so legalizing marijuana is not the right path for the Navajo Nation," Hale said.

Also included in the legislation packet are two chapter resolutions from Oak Springs and St. Michaels chapters, which Hale represents, opposing the legalization of marijuana. Both resolutions cite the harmful effects of the drug on adolescents and young adults, particularly high school and college students.

HEHSC member Council Delegate Joshua Lavar Butler (Tó Nanees Dizi) informed his committee colleagues that the Tó Nanees Dizi Chapter unanimously passed a similar resolution to oppose marijuana legalization on March 9, adding that the resolution will be added to Delegate Hale's legislation in the form of an exhibit.

In his address to Tó Nanees Dizi chapter members on March 9, Butler said the Navajo Nation is a sovereign nation and should maintain its current law under Title 17 of the Navajo Nation Code, which prohibits the possession of marijuana.

"This is not the way to generate money for the state. We know Arizona has no money, but this is not the way to go regardless of the possible tax revenue the state may generate," Butler said.

"We all know the negative effects of drugs on our children and families, and this is the last thing our community needs," Butler said.

Legislation No. 0071-14 now goes to the Naabik'iyáti' Committee for final consideration.

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