The whole world is turning to medical cannabis; the Cherokee Indians of the USA are no exception. So says an article in The Smoky Mountain News in which the Cherokee Indians of the USA voted in assembly a new right for their bodies.
It will be the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians that will establish a medical cannabis program on tribal lands. Even as cannabis remains illegal in the eastern state of North Carolina after a split vote on Thursday, August 5th.
“It’s been surreal,” said Jeremy Wilson, government affairs liaison, one of the three submitters of the ordinance.
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Cherokee Indians of the USA
Wilson is one of the US Cherokee Indians who has militated for the legalization of medical cannabis since his election to the Tribal Council in 2017. He lost his bid for re-election in 2019, but continued his efforts after Director Richard Sneed hired him for his current position in the executive office.
Sneed and Agriculture and Natural Resources Secretary Joey Owle have also been proponents of the program.
That is why their names also appear in the 42-page section of the voted ordinance.
Cherokee Indians in the U.S. have a legal framework
The ordinance creates the legal framework for a medical cannabis program for the Cherokee Indians of the U.S., but many of the specific regulations do not yet exist. Drafting them will be the job of a newly created board.
Wilson said his “hopeful timeline” is that within 12 months, medical cardholders will be able to purchase cannabis at a dispensary in Qualla Boundary.
However, that time period could easily change depending on how things progress among Cherokee Indians in the US.
The ordinance creates a new Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of the USA Cannabis Advisory Commission that will study cannabis-related issues and make regulatory recommendations.
Meanwhile, a new EBCI Cannabis Control Board will establish regulations specific to the Cherokee Indians of the USA.
The Advisory Commission is composed of seven members: the principal chief, the Tribal Council chairman, the president of the Community Club, the secretary of agriculture and natural resources, the secretary of public health and human services, the chief of police and the executive director of the Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority.
Any of the appointed members may appoint a designee in their place to serve up to three consecutive two-year terms on the board.
Commission members shall not be compensated for their service
Members of the five-person control board, however, will receive a salary: $40,000 for the chairman and $30,000 for other members.
The principal chief, meanwhile, nominates the members and the Tribal Council confirms them.
Membership must include at least three members from the EBCI or another federally recognized tribe.
In addition, a certified public accountant with at least five years of experience and comprehensive knowledge of corporate finance must be included.
One other person with training and experience in research, financial auditing or corporate compliance.
A licensed attorney with experience in regulatory compliance; and someone with knowledge and experience in the cannabis industry.
The version of the ordinance stipulated that the fifth member be a physician.
But Associate Attorney General Vince Hyatt told the council that a new version was distributed on the day of the vote.
It stated that the member must be “very well versed” in a medical field such as mental health or public health, but need not be a physician.
“I wasn’t sure if being part of the Cannabis Control Board could jeopardize someone’s (medical) license,” he explained.
Seeds for the Cherokee Indians of the U.S.
The US Cherokee Indian medical cannabis program will be a “seed for sale” operation controlled by Kituwah Medical LLC, wholly owned by EBCI.
The company has identified potential locations that would be “ideal” for private growers in the Qualla Boundary to produce medical cannabis for sale at dispensaries in the Boundary, Wilson said.
These locations would be discreet and not visible from the road.
For the first three years, the law is in effect, medical cannabis cardholders would be limited to purchasing one ounce (28.35 grams) of medical cannabis per day and 6 ounces (170.1 grams) per month.
Also, in an ordinance change approved in May, the U.S. Cherokee Indian tribe eliminated criminal penalties for possessing one ounce or less of the drug.
There will be a limit of 2,500 milligrams of THC in medical cannabis products sold to an individual cardholder per day and 10,000 milligrams per month for those first three years.
In addition, there can be no more than two medical cannabis dispensary locations, and only Kituwah Medical LLC or one of its wholly-owned subsidiaries can obtain medical cannabis establishment licenses.
Dispensaries cannot be within 1,000 feet (304.8 meters) of a pre-existing school or community facility, such as a park, playground, daycare center, swimming pool, community club building, or church.
The Controlling Board will be responsible for establishing a program to issue the cards, which may only be issued to persons 21 years of age or older.
If the person’s health care provider later diagnoses that he or she no longer has the condition that originally qualified him or her for the card, the person must return the card.
Among the questions to be answered by the yet-to-be-created Control Board regulations is who exactly can get a medical cannabis card.
“When you look at how the ordinance is written, it applies to everyone in the Qualla boundary, including enrolled and non-enrolled members,” said Secretary Owle.
“How that is going to work specifically has not yet been developed. That will happen when the Commission meets and starts working.”
The reality is that bureaucracy aside, the Cherokee Indians of the U.S. already have their own medical cannabis program.
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First published in LA MARIHUANA a third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.
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