NC Cherokee dispensary may offer Recreational Marijuana soon, Tribal Council member says

NC Cherokee dispensary may offer Recreational Marijuana soon, Tribal Council member says

Cherokee Marijuana Dispensary Opens Doors, Fuels Speculation on North Carolina Cannabis Laws.

The historic opening of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians marijuana dispensary on the Qualla Boundary on April 20 brought the drug to market for the first time in North Carolina.

Though only currently available for medicinal purposes, the sale of recreational marijuana could soon become a reality.

The EBCI Tribal Council is inching closer to passing legislation that would allow for the recreational sale of the drug. A Tribal Council member suggested a recreational marijuana law could pass by June.

Marijuana is not legal for medical or recreational use in North Carolina. It is legal for medical sale from the Great Smoky Cannabis Co. dispensary on the Qualla Boundary, home of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

During an April 15 Tribal Council work session on an adult-use cannabis resolution, Tribal Council member Boyd Owle noted the progress they were making toward passing the legislation.

"Maybe come June, we can get it going and approve recreational," Owle said during the meeting.

While the EBCI held a referendum in September on the legalization of recreational marijuana, Tribal Council has yet to pass an ordinance updating the regulations on adult use.

Nearly 70% of EBCI voters supported the recreational marijuana referendum, the Citizen Times previously reported. The next step would be for Tribal Council to pass an ordinance.

In 2021, marijuana was legalized for medical use in Cherokee, which is a sovereign nation located on the Qualla Boundary with its own elections, laws, government and institutions that are self-governed and autonomous. Those laws pertain only to tribal land.

On the Qualla Boundary, the drug is only available to those with an Eastern Band medical marijuana card or those with a medical marijuana card from another state.

"I'm anxious to have work sessions on it and get it right and then get it to the 70% of people who wanted it here," Owle said.

If the ordinance passes, the EBCI's Great Smoky Cannabis Co. could open for the recreational sale of marijuana. It would be the first recreational marijuana dispensary in North Carolina.

Democratic State Sen. Julie Mayfield recently told the Citizen Times she hopes the issue of marijuana legalization returns to the North Carolina General Assembly for the upcoming short session.

In 2023, Mayfield was one of the seven sponsors for the Marijuana Justice and Reinvestment Act. The bill — which calls for the legalization and regulation of a North Carolina cannabis market — has been submitted to the General Assembly twice, but has seen little traction.

Democratic State Sen. Graig Meyer of Orange, Person and Caswell Counties launched an ad campaign in favor of the bill on April 20. Meyer had also sponsored the bill in 2023. Both Mayfield and Meyer are running for reelection.

More product, more officers, with recreational marijuana

The move to expand to recreational use will likely bring more employees to the cannabis dispensary, Qualla Enterprises Human Resources Director Lee Griffin said during a February work session on adult use.

Under the current medical marijuana model, the dispensary has "about 78 positions," but that number rapidly increases to over 350 employees if the dispensary is able to immediately open with recreational use, Griffin said.

The move to open to recreational use will also offer more options for the dispensary, Great Smoky Cannabis Co. employee Cade Husky told the Citizen Times April 20.

At the same time, Chief of Police for the Cherokee Indian Police Department Carla Neadeau said manpower is a worry for her department.

During the meeting, Neadeau said "the officers that we do have now aren't going to be enough" to manage the number of people coming for recreational cannabis.

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Region: North Carolina

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