Cherokee Tribe Embarks on Medical Marijuana Sales at Historic Dispensary Debut 

United States – After a long wait, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will be opening its dispensary on the Tribal land this coming weekend and will start selling medically prescribed marijuana. 

Milestone Opening Celebration 

Hundreds of people, many of whom had approved medical patient cards to purchase things, celebrated the historic opening of the Great Smoky Cannabis Co. on Saturday within the Eastern Band territory, which is known as the Qualla Boundary, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times. In fact, on Saturday, April 20th, it was also 420 Day, the annual day of marijuana celebration, as reported by Associated Press. 

The event indicates the most recent marijuana policy reform by the tribe that, in 2021, made the simple possession of any amount of marijuana inside its 89 square miles (231 square kilometers) territory legal. Additionally, the tribe established a medical marijuana system of its own, which included the creation of a tribe-operated business to actually grow cannabis and sell it to derive monetary benefits for both the members and those with medical conditions. 

Cherokee Tribe Embarks on Medical Marijuana Sales at Historic Dispensary Debut. Credit | Pixabay
Cherokee Tribe Embarks on Medical Marijuana Sales at Historic Dispensary Debut. Credit | Pixabay

The words, “This project will change the trajectory of their lives forever,” Forrest Parker, general manager of Qualla Enterprises, the enterprise run by the tribal company that manages the dispensary, expressed himself during the opening ceremony. “It will be a conduit to generations of social, economic, and spiritual growth, unlike anything that’s ever been witnessed.” 

Sovereignty and Legal Challenges 

The Eastern Band, which has close to 14,000 members, is allowed to pass rules allowing cannabis as a sovereign authority and a child of the federally recognized tribe. Marijuana in the state of North Carolina without the use of marijuana remains illegal. Yet, the same Republican senators, Thom Tillis, and Ted Budd, are still worried that law enforcement, federal and state, would be deprived of their current role now that the dispensary is there. The North Carolina General Assembly has been contemplating a proposal for a state medical cannabis law in the past few years. 

Only adults who are 21 and over with their tribe patient card or approved medical marijuana from out-of-state can be eligible to purchase their products at Great Smoky Cannabis Co. 

Future Prospects and Legislative Considerations 

The potential for the marijuana trade is now wider. While the majority of voters in the Eastern Band referendum took place last September in support of adult, recreational use of marijuana in tribal lands, there are still concerns. In addition, the inquiry has sought approval from the legislators on whether the tribal council should develop policies to prohibit the market. 

Charlotte Observer suggested a June due date for settling adult-use legislation, having quoted council member Boyd Owle. 

“Let’s get it right before we put it out there. But we’re on the right track,” Owle said after a council work session on the ordinance earlier this month. 

Economic and Social Impact 

Dispensary sales are projected to be at an excess of USD 200 million in its first year of operation with medical-only customers per number from an impact analysis conducted by Qualla Enterprises. This is compared to an amount of USD 385 million in sales if the product is available to everyone over the age of 21, as reported by the Associated Press. 

Cultural Significance  

One of the highlights of the Saturday ceremony was obviously the transaction between tribal translator Myrtle Driver Johnson and the shop owner in which the first medical marijuana was purchased in English and Cherokee. She informed me that she had provided the local and scientific names of both strains of marijuana in her native language.