By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
A resolution authorizing a feasibility study to be performed to look into the “issues and impacts associated with legalization of cannabis” on tribal lands of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has been vetoed by Principal Chief Patrick Lambert. Tribal Council passed Res. No. 40 (2015) unanimously during Annual Council on Thursday, Oct. 29, and Chief Lambert issued his veto of the legislation on Monday, Nov. 23.
“I have stated my opposition to the recreational use of drugs many times, and this includes marijuana,” Chief Lambert wrote in his veto letter to Tribal Council Chairman Bill Taylor. “At a critical time in our Tribe’s history in dealing with all the human misery associated with illegal recreational use of drugs, I cannot in good conscience sign this legislation. There are some drugs that do have good and solid medicinal uses, but when done for recreation often leads to severe addiction and misery for the user, the family of the user and the larger community.”
He added, “Recreational drug use in our communities is at epidemic proportions. The recreational use of drugs in our community is having devastating impacts on our Cherokee families. A centerpiece of my entire campaign during the past election is to put our ‘Cherokee Families First’, and in my mind, this certainly does not include any support from me on the recreational use of drugs, which includes marijuana.”
Chief Lambert said legalization for recreational use “would create a haven for outsiders to come onto our Boundary and use an otherwise illegal substance”. He also questioned the lack of a plan outlined in the resolution for the study itself. “Who is conducting the study…who is authorizing the expenditures and what is the ultimate goal for such a study?”
“Our Tribe is currently committing millions of dollars to fight the ill-effects of recreational use of drugs in our communities, and we should not be spending one dime on studying the recreational use of another drug.”
Common Sense Cannabis, a group of EBCI tribal members who submitted the resolution authorizing the feasibility study, issued a statement on Sunday, Nov. 29 on Chief Lambert’s veto. “In Chief Lambert’s veto letter, he solely focuses on the ‘recreational’ marijuana, in which we call personal use. He cites recreational drug use as the problem in our community. While he is right about drug use as a problem, it does not stem from cannabis use. The problem lies with legal prescription pills and other synthetics, such as meth and heroin.”
“Chief Lambert views cannabis legalization as a ‘…detrimental impact…’ that would be ‘…immeasureable in its human toll.’ Common Sense Cannabis, Tribal Council, and a majority of the public, view this issue differently. There are EBCI members who can directly benefit from the medical treatment using cannabis: cancer patients, adults and children who experience seizures, those with lupus, veterans suffering from PTSD and many more. We have also seen the astounding economic benefits in states that have legalized cannabis for personal use.”
The vetoed legislation is expected to be discussed and possibly acted upon at the Tribal Council meeting scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 3.
In a Facebook post on Nov. 29, Chief Lambert stated, “I ask for your support when it is heard by Tribal Council this week. Those who are in favor of the recreational use will be pressuring Council Members to overturn this veto, but my veto was done to stop recreational use of yet another drug. Help support the push to uphold the veto.”
Common Sense Cannabis said in their statement, “We would like to encourage you to call your Council Members to bring this veto up in Council on Dec. 3 and overturn Chief Lambert’s veto.”
The vetoed legislation was amended on the day it was passed to state that the funding for the study come from the grant match line item in the tribal budget and that the feasibility study be managed through the EBCI Public Health and Human Services division. The resolution states that the study group “be comprised of three members of Common Sense Cannabis, a representative of the Legal Division, a representative from Public Health and Human Services, two representatives of Tribal Council or the Planning Committee.”