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Cannabis Commission veto upheld

Cannabis Commission veto upheld

Legislation creating a Cannabis Commission that would set the stage for hemp production on the Qualla Boundary has been overturned, following a veto from Principal Chief Richard Sneed and a failed attempt from Tribal Council to override that veto. 

Introduced by outgoing Councilmember Jeremy Wilson, of Wolfetown, the resolution set up a seven-member commission that would seek to develop a hemp regulation plan for submission to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, spearhead any necessary changes to Cherokee law and administrative rules to allow for the industry’s establishment, develop a long-range plan for a tribal hemp regulation entity and develop a long-term economic plan for the hemp industry. 

Though Council made several amendments to Wilson’s original resolution, the legislation passed Sept. 12 with nine in favor, one opposed, one abstaining and one absent. However, on Oct. 2 Principal Chief Richard Sneed vetoed it, triggering a special-called meeting Friday, Oct. 4 — the last business day before inauguration for the new term was held Oct. 7. 

During the Oct. 4 meeting, Sneed said he did not veto the resolution because he’s opposed to the idea — he just believes the resolution is “premature in nature” because the USDA has not yet released its proposed regulations for hemp production plans. 

“The regulations have not yet been released by the USDA, and when we’re talking about the expenditure of funds, to create the plan in-house we have the capacity to write the plan at no additional cost,” said Sneed. “Once the plan is approved by the USDA, then the commission could be seated to carry out anything that needs to be conducted in accordance with the plan. As I stated, I’m not opposed to it. It’s more stewardship over the tribal resources, the tribal dollars, to not start expending funds prematurely.”

As originally passed by Council, the commission would require a one-year budget of $204,000, of which $42,000 would go toward stipends for the three members who would not be serving in their official capacity as tribal leaders. The budget also included $140,000 for legal, subject matter expertise and planning assistance contracts; $20,000 for training and travel; and $2,000 for office supplies and printing.

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Wilson urged Council to override the veto, saying that he’d be happy to remove compensation for all commission members and have them instead serve at will.

“In creating this, I have reached out to other Native American nations who are big role players in this, and with the established commission that has been approved we have made an effort to communicate and potentially create a partnership down the road,” he said. “I understand where you’re coming from with ‘premature in nature,’ but I also think it’s mature in nature to create a plan to be successful, and for a plan to be successful you must plan ahead.”

Councilmember Richard French, of Big Cove, pointed out that the legislation was at too late a stage to make any amendments, such as removing compensation. However, Wilson — who as of Oct. 7 no longer sits on Tribal Council — would be welcome to walk in a new resolution during Annual Council this month bringing forward the Cannabis Commission concept once more, but this time without the stipends. 

Tribal law requires a two-thirds vote to override a chief’s veto, and Wilson’s legislation came up short, with a move to override resulting in a weighted vote of 50 in favor and 38 opposed. Supporting the override were Chairman Adam Wachacha, Vice Chairman David Wolfe and Councilmembers Tommye Saunooke, Lisa Taylor, Tom Wahnetah, Bucky Brown and Wilson. Opposed were Councilmembers Bo Crowe, Perry Shell, Albert Rose and French. 

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