Cherokee native people just made history, as the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has legalized cannabis.
For the first time in North Carolina history, medical marijuana is legal. It’s legal in Cherokee land, to be exact. Cultivating, selling and consuming medical marijuana has been approved by The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
The Tribal Council, unlike lawmakers in North Carolina, recognizes the medicinal benefits. Principal Chief Richard Sneed, who was first elected as vice chairman of the The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in 2015, cites medical marijuana as vital for treating cancer and chronic pain.
“The Council’s approval of a medical marijuana ordinance is a testament to the changing attitudes toward legal marijuana and a recognition of the growing body of evidence that supports cannabis as medicine, particularly for those with debilitating conditions like cancer and chronic pain,” Principal Chief Richard Sneed said.
The sovereign nation is located in Western North Carolina. It’s known as Qualla Boundary, where the tribe has its own elections, body of government and laws. “I applaud the Council for their thoughtful consideration, exhaustive research and consultation with experts to develop a system that balances compassionate care for patients with preserving safety and security in our community,” Sneed added. “Passing this ordinance is just the first step, but we are excited to begin building this program. I know that I reflect the sentiments of many patients in expressing my pride and gratitude for the leadership demonstrated by our Council on this issue.”
Medically-qualified patients over the age of 21 can soon apply and receive a medical marijuana card. One ounce and 2,500mg of THC per day is the legal limit and, in a month, the limit cannot surpass six ounces and 10,000mg of THC.
With the EBCI Cannabis Control Board, the tribe will license the cultivation and processing, as well as dispensary and laboratory locations. There are five members of the board, which is composed of experts in healthcare, law enforcement, the cannabis industry, business and management. The Board will issue regulations and provide licenses to workers.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ decision came shortly after Sneed, along with EBCI government affairs liaison Jeremy Wilson, and Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources Joey Owle, submitted Ord. No. 380. It was passed 11-1 and altered Cherokee Code Sec. 14-95.5 (possession of a controlled substance). Under the order, being charged with a Class C penalty went from possessing half an ounce of cannabis to one ounce. Previously, only one-20th of an ounce to three-20ths of an ounce was legal to carry.
Cherokee Makes History
In May, Sneed called Ord. No. 380 a pivotal first step. “Today’s decision by the Tribal Council to decriminalize small amounts of cannabis by persons 21 or older is a first step towards better meeting the needs of our citizens who use cannabis as a medicine,” he said. “I join those citizens in applauding the Council for its historic, compassionate and morally upright action.”
Reed called it not only morally sensible but economically sound as well. “Now that we are facing times for need of new revenue streams, cannabis fulfills that quest,” he said. “With today’s ordinance passing, the Tribe has now opened the can of opportunity instead of kicking the can down the road. Today’s passing has also brought a peace of mind to those who rely on cannabis for their medicinal needs. Today is a good day for the citizens of the EBCI and a promising future for our economy.”
Meanwhile, Representative Kelly Alexander of Charlotte continues to struggle to legalize cannabis. He first introduced a bill in 2013 in an attempt to do so. In the years since, Alexander has continued his fight for the well-being of North Carolina’s citizens. Recently, Senate Bill 711 to legalize medical cannabis advanced in the NC Senate. Presently, three in four North Carolina residents support legalizing medical marijuana.