The Westleaf Staff
CHEROKEE, N.C. (WLOS) — Medical marijuana in Cherokee is a step closer to actuality. Tribal Council took a key vote Thursday, but there is work still needed to make it a reality.
Tribal Council voted in favor of medicinal marijuana, but there's still a lot of work to be done, including establishing a local control board and advisory commission.
"I believe it was 8 to 4," Principal Chief Richard Sneed said. He says with the vote comes the authority to start a medical marijuana program in Cherokee.
"The first Tribe east of the Mississippi, as far as I know, to be engaging in a medicinal cannabis program," Sneed said. "Next step, we'll have to seat a board for regulatory purposes, and they, once that's done, then we start looking at the cultivation process."
"It's surreal right now," he added.
Cherokee Governmental Affairs Liaison Jeremy Wilson and Agriculture Secretary Joey Owle have worked on the issue for years. He says the advisory commission will include key Cherokee leaders who will work with the control board.
"Three are required to be enrolled members, but all five can be enrolled members," Wilson says. "So, the operation of the industry will operate under our business arm...Kituwah LLC and the regulatory part will happen under the Tribe with the control board," he said.
Wilson says individuals will need to obtain a profile of their health record showing a qualifying condition for medical cannabis.
"So, they would subject that to the control board who would deem them approved or not approved for the purposes of receiving medicinal marijuana," he says. "You are still only subject to one ounce of possession per day... You cannot smoke it in public," Wilson explained.
Medical marijuana laws in North Carolina are in flux, and Cherokee has sovereign nation status, seeing an opportunity.
"We want to make sure this is done right because we are going to be under a microscope just because of the unique situation it is here with our sovereignty versus what the law is in the state," Wilson said.
"There will be some work that will be needed to be done with the State of North Carolina. But we're confident that that won't be too much of a hurdle. We've had discussions with some of the folks down in Raleigh, and they're supportive," Sneed said.
The Chief says this decision is consistent with Cherokee culture, which has relied on plants as medicine for years.
"Indeed, I think that's probably why there's such widespread support in the communities," he said.
Wilson said the decision is precedent-setting.
"It gives us the opportunity to showcase to North Carolina how it can be done and done efficiently and effectively," said Wilson.
Tribal leaders also say medicinal marijuana would also establish a significant additional revenue stream.
Marijuana has been used by cancer patients, for people with chronic pain, and PTSD.