By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is going to look into the “impacts associated with legalization of cannabis” in a feasibility study that was approved recently. Res. No. 401 (2018), submitted by Wolftown Rep. Jeremy Wilson, approves the study which will be overseen by a group including representatives from the Cherokee Tribal Court, EBCI Public Health and Human Services, the tribal LLC Board, EBCI Division of Commerce, and one Tribal Council representative.
“The purpose of this study, and my intent with bringing cannabis/hemp to the Qualla Boundary, is to help break the stigma that has long plagued the plant,” Rep. Wilson said in a statement to the One Feather. “The problem we have is that the majority of people do not know the difference between hemp and marijuana. The overall name for both plants is called cannabis, but the name cannabis is mostly associated with the marijuana plant. Marijuana is a natural plant that has been turned into a drug, much like the coca plant, which man has used to create the drug cocaine for its psychoactive ingredients. Both plants were not created to be abused, but over the course of time, man has done so.”
The legislation passed during Annual Council on Thursday, Oct. 25. Nine Tribal Council representatives voted yes, Wolftown Rep. Bo Crowe voted no, Yellowhill Rep. Tom Wahnetah was absent, and Cherokee County – Snowbird Rep. Bucky Brown abstained.
Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed stated his support for the study in a statement, “This resolution is an important first step in gathering information regarding cannabis. It is critical that the leadership of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is informed as this sensitive issue evolves. States across the country are making changes related to the laws around cannabis research and use, and the EBCI must be ready for the potential impact it will have on the Qualla Boundary.”
The legislation states, “…cannabis treats a variety of diseases, conditions, and chronic ailments, which include but are not limited to: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Lou Gehrig’s disease, sickle cell disease, persistent muscle spasms (MS), nausea, migraines, arthritis, Parkinson’s Disease, seizures, epilepsy, chemotherapy, induced vomiting, cancer, anorexia, fibromyalgia, cachexia (wasting syndrome), glaucoma, chronic pain, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), Hepatitis C, lupus, muscular dystrophy, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), intractable epilepsy, Crohn’s Disease, and depression.”
Rep. Wilson stated his goal is to help tribal members treat some of these ailments as well as provide some revenue for the Tribe. “My intent is not to encourage abuse of the marijuana plant to get high. It is to promote the remedy of relief for chronic illness, treatment, and economic diversification. Marijuana is illegal at this time in the state of North Carolina. However, there is legislation in the state that will allow up to 4oz for personal use if passed. This is a Democratic bill, and if midterm elections favor Democrats, the bill will likely stand a greater chance of passing. My plan is to stay ahead of course, bring forward a plan and study, and be prepared to take action when the time comes. We have always talked about being the leaders of Indian country, but we are still so far behind, and it’s disappointing because of the potential we have here. Hemp/CBD is legal, and you cannot possibly get high on it. It is the non-psychoactive cousin to marijuana. The industry for Hemp is set to hit $2.1-3 Billion by 2020. The Marijuana industry is set to hit the market around $40 Billion by 2021.”
This is the second time a feasibility study has been approved for this issue. Tribal Council passed Resolution No. 40 (2015) unanimously during Annual Council on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015 which called for a feasibility study to be performed to look into the “issues and impacts associated with legalization of cannabis”. The Resolution was submitted by three EBCI tribal members whom are part of a group known as Common Sense Cannabis including Joseph Owle, Aaron Hogner, and Yona Wade.
Then-Principal Chief Patrick Lambert issued his veto of the legislation on Monday, Nov. 23, 2015. “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 then-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.”
The current legislation was amended on Thursday to omit references to recreational use. It originally stated, “…Tribal Council authorizes a feasibility study on the issues and impacts associated with legalization of cannabis for medical, industrial, and potential recreational opportunities for the EBCI.” The word recreational was amended to economic prior to passage.
Rep. Wilson further commented, “My study will be aimed to cover all areas of cannabis/hemp, and help educate our people, and educate our government in the possible opportunities we could have by investing in the industries. We have talked too long about the problems we face with chronic illness, the use and abuse of opioids, injectable narcotics, and lack of economic diversification. I am here to help find answers to those areas, and I genuinely believe cannabis is one of those answers.”