NC's First Cannabis Dispensary Opens Amidst Enforcement Uncertainty

 NC's First Cannabis Dispensary Opens Amidst Enforcement Uncertainty

As NC's 1st cannabis dispensary opens, Cherokee Co, DA to 'continue to enforce state law'.

Even as the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians prepares to begin selling medical marijuana at the Great Smoky Cannabis Company dispensary on April 20, the district attorney for the counties surrounding tribal land said her office will continue to enforce the state's marijuana laws.

District Attorney Ashley Hornsby Welch said she respects the EBCI's tribal sovereignty, but plans to enforce North Carolina state law, which prohibits the cultivation, distribution and possession of marijuana. Welch is the chief criminal prosecutor in Prosecutorial District 43, which includes Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties.

"The mission, duty and privilege of the 43rd Prosecutorial District is to enforce state laws. We do not pick certain laws to enforce and ignore others. On April 20, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will open a marijuana, cannabis dispensary on tribal land. Tribes have inherent authority as sovereign nations, subject only to federal, not state, law," Welch said in the April 3 statement.

Marijuana is currently legal on EBCI land, as two referendums indicated broad support for both the medical and recreational sale of the drug. Tribal Council has passed a resolution allowing the sale of medical marijuana but has not yet passed a resolution amending current tribal laws to allow for the sale of recreational marijuana.

While medically legalized under tribal law, the drug remains illegal under North Carolina state law and under federal law. The dispensary will be the first in the state to sell marijuana.

"We respect tribal sovereignty, and we respect the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ right to enact tribal laws. In North Carolina, the cultivation, distribution and possession of marijuana remains illegal, and we will continue to enforce state law off Qualla Boundary," the statement continued.

Prosecutorial District 43 spokesperson Quintin Ellison declined to comment further on the statement or the EBCI dispensary.

The Citizen Times reached out to the office of District Attorney Seth Banks of Avery, Madison, Mitchell, Watauga and Yancey County and the office of District Attorney Todd Williams of Buncombe County but did not hear back before press time.

WNC Congressman Chuck Edwards and the state's two senators, Thom Tillis and Ted Budd, have questioned the opening of the dispensary and distribution of marijuana in the region. All three are Republicans and Edwards is currently running for reelection.

Last year, Edwards introduced the "Stop Pot Act" to Congress. The bill would remove federal highway funding from tribes and states that legalize marijuana. The bill failed to advance past a Sept. 5 referral to a subcommittee under the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Another EBCI work session on a recreational marijuana resolution is planned for April 18 at 9 a.m., Tribal Council Chairman Mike Parker announced during the April 4 Tribal Council meeting.

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Region: North Carolina

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