We are writing today in response to Representative Edwards’ letter insisting members of Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) vote against the legalization of marijuana use. For a moment we are setting aside our disagreements with Representative Edwards about the role of marijuana policy in reducing crime and addiction. Make no mistake, we do disagree with his policy approach, but this letter is about a different issue. This letter is about our rejection of his attempt to coerce the people of the EBCI into making the decision he wants them to make. The EBCI is a sovereign nation and has the right to govern itself and pass such laws as its duly elected government and its enrolled members see fit, without federal or state interference.
In his letter, Representative Edwards threatens to eliminate federal funds to tribal governments that choose to legalize any form of marijuana use. Rep. Edwards’ strategy reeks of the same paternalism we have seen throughout the history of federal dealings with tribal governments. This is not the action of a friend with a disagreement, it is patronizing and coercive. Rep. Edwards offers false friendship. The federal funding owed to the EBCI must never be a tool for extorting one man’s policy goals. A real friend would know that the United States of America owes a debt to the Cherokee, and making good on that debt is not dependent on disagreements over marijuana policy.
Garrett Lagan, Swain County Democratic Party Chair
Diane Snyder, Cherokee County Democratic Party Chair
Cody Lewis, Jackson County Democratic Party Chair
Sam Edney, Transylvania County Democratic Party Chair