Cannabis has used as a healing agent for thousands of years by cultures worldwide, including Native Americans. Peace pipes, which are symbolic for most Native American cultures in North America, have also become a kind of trope or stereotype, in many ways thanks to Hollywood and TV portrayals. In reality, the notion of a “peace pipe” is a reduction of what pipes stand for in different Native American groups—and not all use pipes—although its role is certainly ceremonial in most cases. Interestingly, in some states peace pipes are considered illegal although those laws are seldom enforced anymore and probably date back to times in which the State sought to suppress Native American culture.
Native American pipes mostly contain tobacco and herbs. Tobacco was used for ceremonial and sacred purposes, rather than for pleasure. These include rites that are used for meditation or prayers, blessings, and other sacred rites. Others smoke different mixtures of herbs, which may or may not contain tobacco; these may be peyote, sage, and even cannabis, as well as seasoning herbs such as mint. Peyote and cannabis are considered sacred in many tribes. In fact, its use dates to many eras ago, as archaeologists have found residues of an American strain of cannabis dating back from before the landing of Europeans in the continent.
The Government of the United States has recognized the use of cannabis and peyote, along with other plants, as elements of Native American religious rites and, in consequence, these tribes are technically allowed to use them. However, while peyote is easier to recognize and control, Cannabis was long considered harder to police by authorities and, thus, in practice Native American tribes were not really allowed the use of Cannabis for sacramental purposes.
Today, some Native American tribes have begun to consider venturing into the Cannabis market and, as some proponents argue, this could help alleviate the endemic poverty in many Native American reservations. Because Native American tribes are exempt from paying federal income taxes on money earned on reservations, they would have an edge over companies that grow and commercialize cannabis products, because unlike most regular businesses, cannabis businesses are not allowed to deduct business expenses from their taxes and thus, end up paying a higher rate. According to some experts then, Native American tribes could earn up to an 85% profit margin from the cannabis industry.
Sources: Cannabis Digest and VoA News.