A Wyoming Native American tribe is considering hemp and medical marijuana as potential avenues of economic development and has authorized a committee to study the opportunities for the reservation. The group will also investigate the medical applications of cannabis and its potential to treat members of the Eastern Shoshone tribe’s Wind River Reservation.

The tribe’s General Council voted in late September to approve a resolution authorizing a group to study the legalization and production of hemp and medical marijuana. The group, So-go-Beah Naht-Su’ in Shoshone, or Mother Earth and Medicine in English, is made up of several members of the Eastern Shoshone tribe including Bobbi Shongutsie.

“Some of the benefits we thought of together were to create more jobs and to heal our people,” said Shongutsie. “We’re trying to transition hemp and medical cannabis into Wyoming so our tribe can get financially stable.”

The group is also tasked with drafting a legalization proposal for the tribe to vote on. Members of the group have been working on the plan for about six months and spent the two months prior to the September General Council meeting preparing their proposal. The General Council is made up of all tribal members of voting age.

Stimulating Self-Reliance

Members of the group said last week that its goal is to “advocate, respect and encourage our tribal sovereignty to execute and stimulate tribal self-reliance.” They are expected to present their findings and a draft proposal at the next meeting of the General Council, which could come as soon as next month.

The state of Wyoming has no provisions for the legal use of medical marijuana, although a 2015 law permits the limited use of CBD oil. Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved a plan by lawmakers that will allow farmers in the state to begin growing hemp in 2020.

Vernon Hill, the chairman of the tribe’s Business Council, said the group has been asked to draft a proposal that conforms to federal law, restricts access to cannabis by minors, and prohibits shipments to states that haven’t yet legalized hemp and medical marijuana. The group has already stated that it has no plans to include the legalization of recreational marijuana in its proposal.

“We want to make sure that it’s done right,” Hill said. “Mainly it’s at the stage where they’re researching this.”

Alexis Eagle, a member of Mother Earth and Medicine, said that legalizing hemp and medical marijuana would provide economic opportunities for the reservation and hope to the tribe’s young people.

“We want to give them something to look forward to,” said Eagle. “Every chance we get, we’re talking about it.”

Although the group has faced some hesitation from some of the older members of the tribe, the efforts to study the legalization of hemp and medical marijuana is being received positively overall.

“We obviously have a vision on getting hemp and medical cannabis here, and our very first step is taking it to our governing body,” Shongutsie said. “We are the last of the first seventh generation, inspiring and motivating the next seventh generation.”

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