By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
For the second time in as many months, Tribal Council has approved legislation authorizing a Cannabis Commission for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. In a regular session on Thursday, Dec. 5, Council approved Res. No. 24 (2019) 9-1 with Wolftown Rep. Bo Crowe being the dissenting vote. Big Cove Rep. Richard French and Birdtown Rep. Boyd Owle were on official travel.
“I think we need to get on this bandwagon before it runs off and leaves us,” said Yellowhill Rep. Tom Wahnetah who made the motion to pass the legislation. “We’ve discussed this enough, and I think we need to move forward with it.”
Res. No. 24, submitted by Jeremy Wilson, EBCI government affairs liason and former Wolftown Council representative, was introduced and subsequently tabled during the Oct. 17 session of Annual Council.
The legislation outlines 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.
During Thursday’s discussion, Painttown Rep. Dike Sneed commented, “I’ve had people in the public saying that they want to see pharmacists and a doctor to sit on that board, someone who has knowledge of what this could do in the medical field.”
No official motions were made concerning this, but several Council representatives said it was an issue that could be discussed during Health Board.
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.”
Later that month, on Oct. 29, the USDA established the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program and released important regulations for states and federally recognized tribes in the process.
Following the announcement by the USDA, Chief Sneed told the One Feather, “The EBCI has been waiting for these regulations so we may better understand the opportunity the Eastern Band has while staying within an established legal framework. I look forward to bringing this information to the EBCI, particularly Tribal Council, so we may resume our work to establish a Commission to advance our interests in hemp production.”
He added, “We have some very capable staff working on this issue and will continue to engage outside partners to ensure we maximize our return on investments.”
The idea for the Cannabis Commission was a recommendation from the feasibility study, initiated by Tribal Council, entitled “Hemp as a Feasible Commodity for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians”. During a presentation to Council regarding 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,” Stahl told Council at the presentation in July. He further said that hemp fiber is four times as durable as cotton and can be grown on the same land for 14 years without depletion.