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Written By Sheena Beronio

The largest Native American tribe assembled a study group that aims to uncover how to further maximize the use of weed on commerce, health care, and farming.

The seven-member study group, which is officially called “Executive Work Group on Hemp, Cannabis and Related Opportunities,” will analyze how to further modernize their tribe’s current agricultural practices. The group will also identify some of the essential legal barriers to accessing marijuana. The group will pass their recommendations to the tribal leaders by the end of May 2020.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. in a press interview said: “As Chief, I want well-informed policy, and the team we have assembled will be a great asset in that regard,” he further added, “I believe there are opportunities for Cherokee Nation, our businesses and our citizens to benefit from this emerging industry.”

Hoskin Jr. wants to abide by the law, which was his mission of putting a study group in the first place. 

“But we need to move forward carefully and responsibly and in absolute strict adherence to the law in order to ensure success and sustainability,” as per Hoskin Jr. 

The Oklahoma-based Cherokee Nation currently outlaws any types of marijuana use. Although Oklahoma already legalized the use of medical marijuana in 2018, the Cherokee Nation announced that they would not be part of the provision. This was clarified by Cherokee Nation Deputy Attorney General Chrissi Nimmo.

“State law legalization of medical marijuana has no effect on the Cherokee Nation as state law does not apply to Cherokee Nation,” as per Nimmo in 2018. “The possession and distribution of marijuana remain illegal under tribal and federal law.”

According to Nimmo, the Cherokee Nation receives federal funding with the condition that prohibits the tribe from promoting the legalization of cannabis. It’s not clear what’s the motivation behind this condition, but Nimmo is sure that without clarifying the rules, those federal funding could be gone in an instant.

With that said, The Cherokee Nation tweaked their drug test policy to cater to the protection of medical marijuana patients.

Last year, some lawmakers tried to propose a bill that presumably resolves the conflict between tribes and the Federal government regarding cannabis policies. This bill, which would amend the current law on federal funding, was proposed to protect any possible cannabis provisions that Cherokee would enact without interference. The House approved the bill, but the Senate didn’t join the jam.

Rep. Don Young (R-AK) filed another stand-alone bill protecting the tribes from the interference of the Federal government whenever they choose to legalize marijuana.

The candidates for the 2020 presidential election also senses this looming issue. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said in a statement last August 2019 that she plans to make the government more accountable for their actions against Native tribes, which includes marijuana policies.

While the current government fails to secure a foolproof bill for a freeing marijuana policy for the Native tribes, there is some progress made in hemp. In the 2018 Farm Bill, Congress legalized low-THC hemp for the States and the Native American tribes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also approved a hemp regulatory system for all States.

The recent development of hemp could allow the Cherokee Nation to legalize hemp farming. This move should, of course, be approved by USDA. The Cherokee Nation hopes to move further than legalizing hemp farming, and with the study group on its toes, it’s not in the distant future.