Medical marijuana bill sponsor backs out


After the Naabik’iyati’ voted against the bill amending the criminal code to allow cultivating marijuana for medical uses, the controversial bill was still set to go before Navajo Nation Council.

But the sponsor of the bill, Budget and Finance Committee member Lee Jack Sr., has withdrawn his sponsorship. He said should any co-sponsor like to re-sponsor the bill they may but only by beginning with a new bill and starting the whole process over again.

Dineh Benally, who has already declared his intent to run for Navajo Nation president in 2018, has pushed for the cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes. He believes this is a healthy, viable option to help those suffering from different illnesses.

“This plant is used as a healthy plant … overall it can be seen as a healing plant,” said Benally. “It’s better than booze.”

Leonard Salgado, vice president of Ultra Health, said to the committee that operations offering medicinal marijuana are located in Arizona and New Mexico. In Arizona alone there are 125,000 medicinal marijuana cardholders and New Mexico has 45,000 cardholders.

“We’ve talked to tribes in California, Michigan, Arizona, New Mexico,” said Salgado. “They want to learn more. They want to exercise their sovereignty. They want to understand the risks and the upside to it.”

Trying to change the perception of marijuana as taboo, Salgado emphasized its not about people getting “high.”

“It’s about the medicine,” he said.

Using it as an alternative form of medication is much better than pills, he said, and so far there has been no deaths as the result of cannabis.

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Categories: Politics

About Author

Arlyssa Becenti

Arlyssa Becenti reports on Navajo Nation Council, Business, Fort Defiance Agency, New Mexico State politics and Art/fashion. Her clans are Nát'oh dine'é Táchii'nii, Bit'ahnii, Kin łichii'nii, Kiyaa'áanii. She’s originally from Fort Defiance and has a degree in English Literature from Arizona State University. Before working for the Navajo Times she was a reporter for the Gallup Independent. She can be reached at