Medical marijuana usage in Cherokee Nation facilities illegal

BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
02/01/2020 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH – The usage of medical marijuana in Cherokee Nation facilities is still illegal under Cherokee and federal laws.

Though Oklahoma voters approved State Question 788 in 2018, legalizing the licensed use, sale and growth of marijuana in Oklahoma for medicinal purposes, it doesn’t apply to the CN’s jurisdiction because the tribe follows tribal and federal laws.

Because the CN is under federal law, its health facilities are also not allowed to prescribe medical marijuana.

“The medicinal use of marijuana is legal according to Oklahoma statute, but is illegal under federal law. Medical providers working for Cherokee Nation Health Services, in accordance with federal law, do not prescribe medical marijuana for patients,” Health Services officials said.

For Cherokee Nation Businesses, it has no policy allowing the usage of medical marijuana anywhere upon its properties, including casinos. Again, this is in large part because of federal laws regulating marijuana as an illegal recreational drug.

In 2018, Deputy Attorney General Chrissi Nimmo said the CN receives multiple sources of federal funding and is subject to federal law and regulations regarding such funding. Some of the tribe’s federal funding is conditioned on prohibiting the use of marijuana (and other Schedule I drugs) in any form.

“Any future changes regarding the legality of marijuana in the Cherokee Nation will have to be evaluated in light of federal law and policy,” she said.

Though the CN is within Oklahoma, the tribe adheres to tribal laws.

“State law applies on lands under the jurisdiction of the state, and tribal law applies on lands under the jurisdiction of the tribe,” Nimmo said.

This means the possession of marijuana – medical or recreational – is illegal on all tribally owned properties, including CN buildings, casinos and facilities, she added. 

Until just recently, medical marijuana was not exempt under CN Human Resources policy and procedure for any employees who may be using medical marijuana.

Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. signed a change to the tribe’s Human Resources policy on Jan. 15 that now provides workplace protections for employees who possess a medical marijuana license.

“Landscapes are changing and the Cherokee Nation needed to modernize its HR policies to reflect those changes,” Hoskin said. “I am pleased to announce this change in policy, and I am committed to ensuring that we support all valid medical prescriptions.”

The previous policy put the CN and potential employees with a medical marijuana license at a competitive job disadvantage, officials said. Now medicinal marijuana license holders will obtain and retain employment with the tribe should they face positive drug pre-employment drug screens.
About the Author
Will Chavez is a Cherokee/San Felipe Pueblo Indian who has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 25 years. During that time he has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a writer, reporter and photographer for the Cherokee Advocate and Cherokee Phoenix newspapers. 

For many years h ...
WILL-CHAVEZ@cherokee.org • 918-207-3961
Will Chavez is a Cherokee/San Felipe Pueblo Indian who has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 25 years. During that time he has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a writer, reporter and photographer for the Cherokee Advocate and Cherokee Phoenix newspapers. For many years h ...

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