By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The debate for establishing regulations regarding cannabis in the territory of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) continues.
Legislation establishing the Cannabis Commission for the Tribe was tabled during the regular session of Tribal Council on Thursday, Nov. 14. Res. No. 24 (2019), introduced by Jeremy Wilson, EBCI government affairs liaison and former Wolftown Council representative, was tabled by a vote of 9-3 with Wolftown Reps. Bo Crowe and Chelsea Saunooke and Birdtown Rep. Albert Rose opposing.
Tribal Council approved legislation establishing the Cannabis Commission on Sept. 12. That legislation was vetoed on Oct. 2 by Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed. Wilson’s Res. No. 24 was introduced and tabled during the Oct. 17 session of Annual Council.
There was minimal discussion during Thursday’s (Nov. 14) debate on the legislation.
Rep. Crowe said his community is in favor of allowing North Carolina state officials to take the reins on regulation of cannabis on tribal lands. “What our community club had come to is the state already regulates this. They already have a board. They’ve already got everything in place…”
He added, “The ones who are already growing hemp are regulated by the state. The state comes out and tests it. They’ve got everything in line right now.”
Mary W. Thompson, an EBCI tribal member from the Big Cove Community, asked, “Why not have a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians sit on the state board and make that recommendation with the state?”
Vice Chairman David Wolfe opposes those ideas. “My fear is that if we just use them and ask them to come here and regulate, they’ll be wanting to regulate everything we do here. So, I’m not willing to give up our sovereignty and our ability to regulate on our own.”
Tribal Council Chairman Adam Wachacha announced that Res. No. 24 would be brought up again in the Dec. 4 Tribal Council session.
In his veto letter of Oct. 2, Chief Sneed stressed the need for planning, “Rather than heavily investing into this venture without proper planning and clearly understanding our own farming communities’ status regarding hemp production, our people can still be afforded an avenue to enter into and continue hemp production under USDA regulatory framework while we work to create a solid framework and path forward for the EBCI.”
Wilson was not able to attend Thursday’s session, but he did comment during the debate on Oct. 17, “I get it, there’s people out there who are either opposed to it or just don’t know much about it, but then again that is the importance of driving an educational effort…what I caution is back-peddling this opportunity because all this Commission is tasked with is to form a plan for you. It is not to instantly put you into the industry…”
In Res. No. 24, Wilson proposes the following make-up of the Cannabis Commission: Principal Chief or his designee, EBCI Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources or his designee, EBCI Secretary of the Treasury or his designee, Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority chief executive officer or his designee, and the EBCI Grants and Compliance Officer or his designee.
Tribal Council previously paid for a feasibility study on cannabis entitled “Hemp as a Feasible Commodity for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians”, and establishing the Cannabis Commission was one of the study’s recommendations.
During a presentation to Council on the feasibility study in July, Eric Stahl, Hempleton Investment Group (group that performed the study) vice president of sales, noted that the study focused on industrial hemp which is a strain of Cannabis sativa that contains less than 0.3 percent THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). “Hemp cannot get you high,” he said then.