Synthetic marijuana products have been banned under Oklahoma and federal laws. In 2011, the Cherokee Nation Tax Commission alerted owners of tribally licensed smoke shops that they are not to sell synthetic marijuana products. COURTESY PHOTO
Synthetic marijuana barred in tribally licensed smoke shops
Synthetic marijuana products have been banned under Oklahoma and federal laws. In 2011, the Cherokee Nation Tax Commission alerted owners of tribally licensed smoke shops that they are not to sell synthetic marijuana products. COURTESY PHOTO
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Tax Commission recently sent out letters to owners of tribally licensed smoke shops to remind them of the illegality of selling synthetic marijuana.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, synthetic marijuana is a mixture of herbs and spices that is sprayed with a synthetic compound chemically similar to Tetrahydrocannabinol or more commonly known as THC, the ingredient in marijuana.
Two of the names these types of products are sold under are “K2” and “Spice.”
CN Tax Commission Administrator Sharon Swepston said a law change from the U.S. Department of Justice outlawing the sale of synthetic marijuana prompted the letter.
“You’re hearing on the news where these kids are getting ahold of it. I just wanted to make sure that we were all on the same page and this was just a reminder to them that we cannot sell it,” she said.
The Tax Commission letter states the “drugs are extremely dangerous with unpredictable results for the users, and have become increasingly popular with young adults and children because they have been poorly regulated and often widely available in convenience stores and head shops.”
On March 1, the DOJ through the DEA passed laws that made it illegal to sell, distribute or possess synthetic marijuana.
Swepston said the illegal substances are marketed as bath salts, potpourri and even plant food.
“There was some stuff being sold like a potpourri and they (smoke shop owners) actually called us when they started hearing (it in the news prior to the new law),” she said. “They called and said ‘we want to make sure this is OK.’ What I had them do was fax me all the information about the ingredients and all of that and then I in turn give it to the AG (attorney general) and let them look at it to make sure that it is legal to sell or not.”
The products considered illegal contain mephedrone, methylenedioxypyrovalerone or methylone. As of Oct. 21, merchandise having these ingredients has been deemed illegal to sell or possess in tribally licensed smoke shops.
The long-term effects of the synthetic marijuana are unknown, but the short-term effects are similar to marijuana highs.
“They’re buying it and then they’re smoking it because it gives them the same high that marijuana would, but it’s just a synthetic deal,” Swepston said. “It says on the package it’s ‘not for human consumption’ and all of that, but it doesn’t keep people from evidently doing that.”
She said the Tax Commission does routinely inspect tribally licensed smoke shops to ensure the shops are not selling synthetic marijuana products.
“They never know when we’re going to show up,” she said. “They are aware of the federal laws and now the Oklahoma law that banned the products that have these ingredients in them.”
Punishment for individuals caught with these synthetic marijuana substances consists of possible jail time and fines in the thousands of firstname.lastname@example.org • 918-453-5560
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials in 2013 announced an expansion to the tribe’s Health Services, which included a new W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah. On Jan. 15, tribal officials said the Indian Health Service has awarded the CN a Joint Venture Program project to help pay for a new Hastings.
As part of the agreement between the CN and IHS, the tribe will fund the construction of a more than 250,000-square-foot facility on the hospital’s Tahlequah campus. IHS initially provides up to $30 million per year for 20 years for staffing and operations, according to CN Communications.
The tribe was among more than 30 applicants and one of the top three selected for the project.
“Cherokee Nation Health Services cannot be more excited about the future of W.W. Hastings Hospital and our tribe’s health system as a whole,” Health Services Executive Director Connie Davis said. “With the millions of dollars from the joint venture project, the Cherokee Nation will continue to offer first-class health service at a state-of-the-art health facility.”
Davis said she’s worked within the walls of the current hospital since 1988 and knows firsthand the challenges of not having enough room as both a patient and a nurse.
“And so when I had the opportunity to have this job it was more than I could have ever dreamed when the (principal) chief (Bill John Baker) readily said ‘OK, let’s make some expansions’ and had support of the council and put that money where their mouth is,” Davis said. “We’ve got a great team of people and the chief pushing forward to get this done.”
Davis said in August 2013 the Tribal Council passed a resolution to apply for the joint venture with IHS. The resolution was submitted that September.
“We were notified Oct. 15 of the same year that we were in the top running. And just this past year, or this week, notified that we were selected,” she said.
Hastings CEO Brian Hail said in conjunction with IHS, CN would begin the planning process with the new hospital following program requirements.
“We estimate we’ll have that completed by the end of the summer then hopefully we can have construction completed within the next two to three years,” Hail said.
Principal Chief Baker said it took work from several people and departments to bring the tribe’s health services where it is today.
“But I stand before you today to tell you that this is probably the greatest news of the modern Cherokee Nation,” he said. “Yes, we started gaming some 10 years ago and that was great news, but over those 10 years we averaged about $20 to $25 million a year coming into the tribe for direct services to our people. But because of this announcement today we have been approved for a joint venture on the W.W. Hastings Hospital campus to proceed...right away.”
He added that CN official would do everything in their power to maximize the dollars to make the lives and the health care of the Cherokee people.
“So we don’t know exactly how it’s going to look because there is going to be some negotiations and give and take, but it very likely could mean more dollars per year than the dollars they gave us when we took over Hastings Hospital five years ago,” Baker said.
According to a press release, the “expanded hospital campus will help alleviate the strain on the current hospital, which was built 30 years ago to serve 65,000 outpatient visits each year. The hospital currently serves more than 400,000 patient visits per year. The new facility will include more than 100 exam rooms and dozens of specialty rooms.”
The release also states that in the early 1990s, IHS started a Joint Venture Program to help tribes develop better health care facilities for its citizens “while alleviating financial strain on the federal government.”
WASHINGTON – To improve and enhance the health and fitness of American Indians and Alaska Natives across the nation, the Indian Health Service recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Nike USA Inc. to collaborate on the promotion of healthy lifestyle choices for American Indians and Alaska Natives.
One focus area for this collaboration will be on supporting and promoting physical activity programs among Native youth before, during and after the school day.
“Regular physical activity and healthy food choices contribute to better health by reducing obesity and the many chronic conditions associated with it, including diabetes and heart disease,” Dr. Yvette Roubideaux, acting IHS director, said. “This partnership will serve American Indian and Alaska Native communities by expanding the information available on the importance of physical activity and healthy lifestyle choices.”
This MOU continues a partnership between the IHS and Nike that started more than 10 years ago, when they initially began to identify opportunities to work together to inform and educate Native communities about healthy lifestyles and choices. In the past decade, the partnership has made progress in encouraging American Indians and Alaska Natives to take charge of their health with innovative exercise and nutrition programs.
“N7 is Nike’s long-time commitment and mission to inspire and enable two million Native American and Aboriginal youth in North America to participate in sport and physical activity,” Sam McCracken, Nike N7 general manager, said. “We are proud of Nike’s unique partnership with IHS and our shared commitment to unleash the potential of American Indian and Alaskan Native communities through the power of movement.”
With the new MOU, the IHS and Nike are focusing on ways to motivate and inspire American Indians and Alaska Natives of all ages to continue on the path to a healthier future.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – It’s 5:15 p.m. and Cherokee Nation citizen Angie Cone is alone at the front of the room. Dressed in a shade of red-orange, her workout clothes are color coordinated down to her socks and sneakers. She stands at the stereo, shuffling her playlist and stretching.
Women make their way into the cardio room at the Male Seminary Recreation Center, the gym owned and operated by the CN. A few are first timers to Cone’s Zumba® class.
As Cone steps in front of the group, she asks, “Anyone here new to Zumba®?” A few hands go up.
The room is bright and flanked by floor-to-ceiling mirrors at its ends. Class regulars claim their spots, creating ordered ranks for the newcomers to find spots.
Cone assures everyone that it’s normal to feel awkward at first, especially when confronted by the huge mirrors and learning something new. She tells them it takes two to three classes before they feel like they know what they’re doing.
“I’ve heard people say my class is hard,” Cone said. “Just do what you can do. My mom is back there in the back row. Just do what she does. She lasts the whole hour.”
Cone’s mother, Debra Johnston, is in a back corner, strategically positioned in front of the room’s single wall-mounted fan.
It’s all business once the music starts. A warm-up routine accelerates until most women are breathing heavier and have a worked up a light sweat. Then come the squats, jumping jacks and crunches. The routines are a blend of dance and calisthenics performed to Cone’s blend of catchy popular music, Christian rap and A Tribe Called Red’s ‘Electric Powwow.’
Cone calls out the moves two beats ahead and gestures directional prompts, helping everyone keep up. Every set is done in counts of two, four or eight.
During a challenging squat-filled routine, she yells, “Your legs should be on fire!” Many nod as they
grimace through the song blaring over the speakers.
At the end of the hour, the women wipe away sweat, grab their water bottles and promise to see each other next time.
Azar Rahmani, a front-row regular, owns Azar’s Mediterranean Kitchen in Tahlequah’s “North End.”
“I stand on my feet all day. It makes me feel good to move,” she said. “It makes me stronger.”
One woman in class said since she’s been doing Zumba®, she can eat whatever she likes.
According to Harvard Health Publications, one can burn 360 to 532 calories an hour of just dancing fast. Cone’s heart rate monitor and calorie tracker puts her hour-long total consistently between 900 to 1,000 calories.
“With Zumba® , you burn a lot of extra calories compared to a steady-state exercise like jogging,” states Dr. John P. Porcari of the American Council on Exercise.
For Cone, Zumba® was a way to bust through a diet plateau and empower herself.
“I’ve always been kind of fitness minded and then you’d hit a plateau and just nothing works anymore. I saw it (Zumba®) advertised on TV and said to her (Johnston), we should do that but she didn’t want to do it,” she said. “We would go to the gym and I’d use the elliptical machine and the treadmill and a little bit of weights and stuff. But I could never get out of that plateau.”
Undeterred, Cone pitched in with co-workers to buy the Zumba® DVD set to exercise to at work. But it just wasn’t the same as being in a live class.
“I thought they looked like they were having fun and they weren’t in agony,” Cone said.
Zumba® is marketed as “exercise in disguise” for a reason.
“This is the first thing that I’ve done that you’re getting a total body workout and you don’t even realize it,” she said.
Cone started taking classes at the MSRC with instructor Tonya Wapskineh, who leads classes on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday on the gym’s floor.
“At first it’s intimidating. We (she and her mother) were out there on the floor thinking ‘this is embarrassing, I don’t think I can do it,’” Cone said. However, she said, “once everything starts, you just forget and you just do it.”
From this experience, she knows what it’s like as a beginner.
“When we first started, it was brutal because everybody had their own spot to stand. We’d get there like 45 to 30 minutes early. We’d get in a little workout beforehand, but we’d make sure we were up there in that room in our spot ready to go when class started,” Cone said. “If you got our spot, we’d just look at you like, ‘I don’t know, you’re going to have to move…’”
Respecting each other’s “spot” is unspoken Zumba® etiquette.
“It’s like at church, you know. These people are really nice until you get in their pew,” Johnston said. “Then they’re not that nice!”
The Zumba® “spot” may be something the pair laughs about, but Johnston’s diabetes was not. Cone decided she had to get her mom to exercise more even if it meant teaching a class herself.
“I started out just substituting for Tonya,” she said.
However, to teach Zumba®, instructors have to be trained and certified through the Zumba® company. Cone did the all-day training and said students are taught not only how to perform the steps and develop a class, but also how to make teaching Zumba® a business.
“I didn’t want to make it a business. But I knew what it did for me and I saw how it changed other people’s lives so maybe I could do that. Maybe if I taught, my mom would want to come.”
And her mom did come. She needed to exercise more, or at least differently. She was struggling to manage her diabetes.
“My numbers got better right after I first started. I started losing weight and getting toned. I’ve lost 40 pounds, or something like that, so far,” Johnston said.
Through teaching Zumba®, Cone has helped not only her mother but other women in the CN get more fit and have fun doing it.
“At least within a month, I can see a difference in them. They’re standing up taller. They’re happy to be there. They want to be there. They can feel a difference. They’re telling me after class that now they can do this or they’ve done that,” she said.
Cone’s mother is her biggest fan.
“It’s just fun. You feel like you’re just dancing. Remember your clubbing days? That’s what you’re doing out there. You’re just shaking and twisting and it’s fun,” Johnston said.
Cone said she tries to make it fun.
“I feel that if I can’t do it, that I can’t teach you anything. My main focus is that you are moving and having fun because if you’re not having fun, you’re not coming back,” she said.
– REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION
The Male Seminary Recreation Center is located at 1501 Graham Ave. To join the class, one must have a MSRC membership or pay a $5 one-day pass. Con also leads a class at Surefire Fitness located at 106 West Division in Stilwell. For more information, email ConeAngela1976@gmail.com. If not in the Tahlequah or Stilwell areas, find a Zumba® class by visiting www.zumba.com.
SALLISAW, Okla. – Roland Junior High School Principal and Cherokee Nation citizen John Speir changed his life for the better after losing 170 pounds with the help of Cherokee Nation’s Healthy Eating for Life Program and self-determination.
Before seeking out the program at W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah, Speir weighed 398 pounds and often became winded and felt pain when monitoring the school’s hallways. Now, the 43-year-old weighs 228 pounds and is taking back his health.
“Before any weight loss, I was a really big guy,” the Sallisaw resident said. “If I did a lot of strenuous work, or walked a long way, my knees and back hurt and I felt pain down my legs. That stuff doesn’t happen now.”
Speir’s doctor at the Redbird Smith Health Center referred him to HELP in summer 2013.
According to a CN press release, the HELP includes a team of nurses, surgeon, psychologist and counselor certified in the medical study of obesity provide patients with nutrition education, weight loss support groups and possibly bariatric surgery.
“I wanted to make sure I was going to be around to see my girls graduate high school and college and to one day walk them down the aisle,” Speir said. “I made my mind up right then that I had to do something different. I had to change.”
The program urged Speir to keep a food journal, cut out soft drinks and fast food and start exercising. In a year’s time he lost 100 pounds and qualified for the Lap-Band surgery this past summer.
“My surgeon, Dr. Hope Baluh, was very thorough and stringent on her requirements for surgery,” he said. “In the months that I went to the HELP clinic before surgery, they taught me how to think differently about so many things, which has helped me continue to lose weight after my surgery. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
After the surgery Speir lost an additional 70 pounds. With the weight loss, Speir looks forward to spending the summer being more active with his daughters’ sports teams.
“We really want our HELP clinic to be different in the way that people aren’t just left hanging in the breeze after being given some information,” Maggie Parker, a W.W. Hastings Hospital certified bariatric nurse, said. “The goal is to teach our participants how to have a healthy life and then for them to teach their children to keep their families healthy.”
There are two surgical procedures provided through the clinic, the Lap-Band and laparoscopic vertical sleeve gastrectomy. The Lap-Band is an adjustable device that goes around the patient’s stomach and the laparoscopic vertical sleeve gastrectomy is a procedure, which consists of removing a large portion of the patient’s stomach to reduce food consumption. Patients must have a referral submitted by a primary care provider from a tribal facility and they must meet strict guidelines to qualify for bariatric surgery.
“Dr. Baluh and the HELP clinic are truly changing lives for the better every day at W. W. Hastings Hospital, and we believe that a personal success story like Mr. Speir’s helps more of our Cherokee Nation citizens realize the changes they can make to improve their own health,” Hastings Hospital CEO Brian Hail said.
The tribe’s HELP aided approximately 1,500 patients in 2014 and is one of the fastest growing bariatric clinics in the area.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – January and February are known for having bitterly cold temperatures. With those lower temps it’s important to understand the illnesses and injuries that can occur if cold weather precautions are not taken. Preparedness is what it takes to stay warm and healthy when cold weather comes.
Randy Gibson, Cherokee Nation Public Health Program liaison, said when temperatures drop significantly, staying warm can be a challenge if one is unprepared.
“Exposure to cold temperatures, whether indoor or outside, can cause other serious or life-threatening health problems,” he said. “Infants and the elderly are particularly at risk, but anyone can be affected.”
Dr. Nanetta Lowe, CN Hastings Hospital Emergency Department director, said as of Jan. 7, she hadn’t treated any cold-related illnesses or injuries, but does expect to have patients soon as colder temperatures hit the state. The two most common illnesses, she said, are hypothermia and frostbite.
Hypothermia is a potentially dangerous drop in body temperature. The earliest warning sign of it is shivering, the first indication that the body has lost heat.
Other symptoms are slow shallow breathing, confusion and memory loss, drowsiness or exhaustion and slurred speech. Symptoms in infants can include skin that is cold to the touch and bright red and unusually low energy or lethargy.
Frostbite symptoms include skin that is cold, hard, pale and numb to the touch.
If hypothermia or frostbite is suspected seek medical care immediately.
Precautions to avoid hypothermia and frostbite include wearing proper clothing such as a hat, sleeves, mask and scarf. Children younger than 1 year old should be dressed in warm clothes, even inside.
Other tips include avoiding heavy exertion while working outdoors and avoid getting gasoline or alcohol on skin while de-icing and fueling cars or equipment.
Contact with the skin can greatly increase heat loss from the body.
It’s also important to prepare one’s home during colder temps.
“If using a fireplace, wood stove, or kerosene heater, install a smoke detector and a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector near the area to be heated,” Gibson said. “Finally, don’t forget about your pets. If possible, bring them indoors. If that is not possible, provide adequate shelter and place heat packs or hand pocket warmers in towels and place them in the bottom of carriers and cages for shelter, and make sure that they have access to unfrozen water.”
Lowe said special attention should be paid to infants, small children and elders as they can lose body heat faster than healthy adults in extreme cold weather.
“Frequently checking on our elders to make sure they are warm, well fed and well cared for, especially if they live alone is an obligation all of us should be mindful of,” Lowe said.
<strong>According to the Red Cross, tips for traveling during extreme cold weather include:</strong>
• Make sure vehicles are in good working order before trips. This includes checking tire air pressure and windshield fluid and cleaning lights and windows.
• Equip vehicles with an emergency preparedness kit with water, snacks, flashlight, first aid kit and blankets.
• Check weather and road conditions before traveling.
• Share travel plans including intended route and estimated arrival time with someone.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Making New Year’s resolutions and sticking to them can be difficult, especially when they involve your health. Losing weight or going to the gym more are usually the most popular resolutions, but people often lose motivation by the time spring comes around.
Oklahoma City Indian Clinic is encouraging Oklahomans to develop healthy habits they can maintain year-round.
“The New Year can inspire us to make big resolutions that can end up overwhelming us,” Oklahoma City Indian Clinic CEO Robyn Sunday-Allen said. “By introducing small, healthy habits into our lives, we’re more likely to be receptive to the change and stay committed.”
Develop healthy eating habits. Poor eating habits can contribute to health risks such as heart disease or obesity. Set one healthy eating goal each week to help you learn, practice and eventually adopt a new habit. Goals like drinking eight glasses of water every day, adding more vegetables to your plate or cutting back on sugar can make a big difference over time.
Increase physical activity. If exercising more is one of your resolutions, you don’t have to limit yourself to the gym. Add at least 30 minutes of a physical activity you enjoy and can easily implement into your daily routine. Whether it’s riding your bike to work a few days a week, joining a yoga class or going for a walk after dinner, every little bit adds up and will motivate you to try new things and stay active longer.
Limit alcohol intake. Cutting down on alcohol can reduce the risk of alcohol-related diseases, lower blood pressure and support long-term health. Reduce your alcohol consumption by identifying how you can cut back in the upcoming week. If your workplace plans a lot of happy hours, commit to a maximum of one drink. If you plan to eat out at restaurants several times throughout the week, try choosing restaurants that don’t serve alcohol. You could also designate one or two days a week as alcohol-free days.
Stop smoking. Smoking can have severe long-term consequences and is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Taking the necessary steps toward quitting can be more beneficial than quitting “cold turkey.” Consult with your physician and do your research to form a plan of action before you start. There are numerous medications and alternatives to assist smokers; you just have to take it one step at a time.
For more information, visit <a href="http://www.okcic.com" target="_blank">www.okcic.com</a>.
Oklahoma City Indian Clinic was established in 1974 to provide excellent health care and wellness services to urban Indians in central Oklahoma. The clinic staff cares for more than 18,000 patients from more than 220 federally recognized tribes every year. Urban Indians can receive a range of services, including medical, dental, pediatrics, prenatal, pharmacy, optometry, physical fitness, nutrition, family programs and behavioral health services.