Commissioners take on marijuana, ICE in local resolutions

Published 11:00 am Friday, May 10, 2019

Two resolutions touching on hot-button issues — drugs and immigration — found their way onto the county agenda this week at Monday night’s meeting of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners. One passed; one failed.

The first, a resolution supporting House Bill 370, an N.C. House bill that would require local law enforcement to determine if any person charged with a criminal offense is a legal resident in the U.S., and if unable to determine so, make a status request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The bill also requires facilities to detain a person at the request of ICE. The instruction to check legal status does not apply to people who are victims or witnesses to crimes or those reporting criminal offenses. The North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association came out against the bill last month, saying, “The people of each county, as reflected by the decision of their elected sheriff, should retain the ability to decide which lawful method they will utilize in complying with existing federal and state law. Just as the Association opposes any state law requirement to participate in the ICE detainer program, it would also oppose legislation prohibiting sheriffs from participating in the ICE detainer program.”

The vote to support H.B. 370 failed, 3-4. Commissioners Gary Brinn, Stan Deatherage and Hood Richardson voted for the measure.

The next resolution passed, but only after debate about some of its language. In response to many states legalizing marijuana for recreational use, Beaufort County commissioners resolved against its legalization, citing its harmful effects, arguing it hampers job prospects for users of the drug, therefore leading to increased reliance on “the state welfare system at a high cost to the tax payer.” All commissioners supported the resolution, however, some balked about lumping medical marijuana use in with recreational.

“I certainly don’t want anybody who has something that will help them increase their quality of life, I will never vote against that. But just recreational smoking? Yes, I have a problem with that — I mean, I do. But if it will help someone enhance their quality of life, if it eases their pain, then I will not go against that,” said Commissioner Jerry Langley.

“I would support it , if we took out this medical use of marijuana. I’m not for taking away anything that can be handled through the medical profession, and if it’s controlled and marijuana will help that individual that has some rare disease, or whatever, I don’t want to take that opportunity away,” Commissioner Frankie Waters said.

Richardson said the medical use is ultimately the same thing — anyone can fake a need and get it prescribed, as seen in Colorado. However, Richardson ultimately agreed to leave out reference to medical marijuana, and the measure passed 7-0.