EBCI will open historic NC Medical Cannabis dispensary

EBCI will open historic NC Medical Cannabis dispensary

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Opens First Medical Cannabis Dispensary Amid Debate on Recreational Use.

It's a historic week for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) as their medical cannabis dispensary opens on Saturday, 4/20. It will be the only dispensary in the state where you can legally buy marijuana. Both medical and recreational cannabis remains illegal in North Carolina, but the Qualla Boundary is sovereign land.

During Monday’s work session to talk about the expansion of the program, Qualla Enterprises LLC General Manager Forrest Parker thanked tribal leadership for their work since 2021 to ensure the success of the seed-to-sale program. He told them as many as 3,400 individual products have been tested and are ready to be sold on Saturday when the medical dispensary opens. The dispensary will have between 38 to 40 different marijuana products to offer when it opens its doors.

EBCI Tribal Council’s second work session Monday was to discuss a recreation or adult use program approved by the membership last September. Over the nearly hour-and-a-half-long meeting, tribal leadership heard from school leaders, the hospital’s administration, tribal law enforcement and emergency management, and others including the courts about concerns increased accessibility may present, especially for community youth.

Associate Judge for EBCI Tribal Court Sunshine Parker stood before the council relaying concerns the court system currently sees with tribal youth. She told the council they have 20 kids who have recently participated in court diversion programs and the majority of kids they encounter entering the system are a result of marijuana use.

“My hope would be as we launch this thing that we’re thinking about where the profits are going and what they’re going toward. I know it would be really nice for the jail side if they could get some more funding to support behavioral health and interventions and MAIT and that sort of stuff in the jail,” said Parker.

“How are we going to put forth more effort into educating individuals on this and the safety of this for everyone?” questioned Superintendent at Cherokee Central Schools Consuela Girty.

Girty also raised concerns not only about the medical program’s impact on employees, but what happens when it expands to recreation or adult use?

“Even though they have a medical card because it helps them with their anxiety and whatever they’re in a classroom of 20 children," she said. "Are they going to be able to respond appropriately if they’re under the influence?”

Issues also came up for other tribal departments and employees. The Division of Human Resources Secretary Sarah Teesateskie pointed out there are already policies in place to address marijuana use on tribe owned property and businesses.

“Our current personnel policy addresses that, there’s zero tolerance for any substance to be on any tribal property, and that’s outlined in the personnel policy and all of our employees sign acknowledgments for that when they’re hired,” said Teesateskie.

Monday, Principal Chief Michell Hicks expressed concerns about the proposed legislation that would allow medical card holders on the boundary to grow marijuana at home.

Council expressed the need for further discussions before authorizing recreational marijuana sales.

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Region: North Carolina

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