With $64 million voted down, can NC Cherokee Marijuana Dispensary open?
The principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians says his recent veto of $64 million will affect the tribe’s plans to open a medical marijuana dispensary this summer.
Chief Richard Sneed will meet in the next week with tribal officials who run the EBCI’s medical cannabis operation to discuss the effects of his veto, including whether the loss of funding will delay the opening of a dispensary on the tribe’s Qualla Boundary in Western North Carolina, Sneed told The Charlotte Observer Friday night.
“I expect it will impact their plans for development,” Sneed told the Observer in a Facebook message. “I meet with them to discuss further next week.”
Sneed said he supports the project, “but more diligence must be done before the EBCI commits more funding. I do not support a distribution of $64M at this time.”
Officials with Qualla Enterprises LLC, the tribe’s medical cannabis business, didn’t reply to two requests for comment from the Observer since Sneed announced his veto in a Facebook message to tribal members May 5.
The tribe plans to open the dispensary by late summer or early fall on U.S. 19 South near Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, officials with Qualla Enterprises told the Observer on an exclusive tour of the cannabis operation in late March.
Sneed’s veto, which the Tribal Council backed, has raised questions about whether the tribe can now meet that timeline.
In his May 5 Facebook message to his tribe, Sneed attached a copy of a letter he sent to Tribal Council Chairman Richard French informing him of his veto and his reason. The chief’s role is similar to a state governor in his ability to veto legislation. The Tribal Council chairman is like a mayor in terms of leading council meetings and voting on issues.
“The fact that this project’s original cost for an outdoor grow, an indoor grow and an indoor dispensary was $50m, and we are now being told it is $95m, demonstrates that there is an immediate need for a full accounting of the money that has been expended to date,” Sneed wrote.
Sneed told French he “fully supports cannabis, both medical and adult use.” He is also “encouraged and inspired” by tribal workers at the growing operation at Cooper’s Creek on the Qualla Boundary in Cherokee.
Yet, he said, “I am very troubled by the lack of accountability for the managing of the business side of the operation. The current projected cost is almost 100% over budget as compared to the original RFP projected cost.” RFP stands for “request for proposals.”
The tribe has already developed what would be the first two unique strains of marijuana legally sold in North Carolina, named “Qualla Bear” and “Goose Creep.”
And more proprietary strains are on the way, Forrest Parker, Qualla Enterprises general manager told the Observer in March.