Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Opens First Legal Cannabis Dispensary in North Carolina

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians opens North Carolina's first legal medical marijuana dispensary, marking a historic milestone in the state's cannabis legalization journey.

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Waqas Arain
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Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Opens First Legal Cannabis Dispensary in North Carolina

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Opens First Legal Cannabis Dispensary in North Carolina

On April 20, 2024, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians made history by opening the Great Smoky Cannabis Co. dispensary on tribal land in Cherokee, North Carolina. The dispensary, located at 91 Bingo Loop Road in the Qualla Boundary, marks the first legal sale of medical marijuana in the state.

Hundreds of people, many holding approved medical patient cards, celebrated the historic opening. The ceremony featured the first medical marijuana purchase made in both English and Cherokee by tribal translator Myrtle Driver Johnson.

The dispensary opening is the latest step in the tribe's liberalization of marijuana rules. In 2021, the Eastern Band decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana within its 89 square miles of land and formed a medical marijuana system, including a tribal company to grow and sell cannabis.

As a sovereign nation and federally recognized tribe with about 14,000 members, the Eastern Band can pass rules permitting cannabis, while marijuana use remains illegal in the rest of North Carolina. Forrest Parker, the general manager of the Great Smoky Cannabis Company, expressed satisfaction in being the first to enter this industry in the state and emphasized their commitment to providing safe, regulated cannabis to customers.

Why this matters: The opening of the Great Smoky Cannabis Co. dispensary represents a significant milestone for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and a step forward in the legalization of medical marijuana in North Carolina. The dispensary provides access to safe, regulated cannabis for medical patients and is expected to boost tourism in the Qualla Boundary.

To access the dispensary, customers must be at least 21 years old and have a medical patient's card from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians' Cannabis Control Board, another tribe's Medical Cannabis Patient Card, or a reciprocal state's medical patient card. The dispensary sells locally grown and processed cannabis products, with all items produced from plants cultivated at the tribe's Cooper's Creek Farm.

The scope of marijuana sales could become much greater, as a majority of Eastern Band voters backed the adult, recreational use of marijuana on tribal land in a referendum last September. The tribe is working on finalizing an adult use ordinance, which could be approved as early as June 2024.

The Great Smoky Cannabis Co. dispensary is expected to generate significant revenue for the tribe. Projections estimate over $200 million in gross sales in its first year if limited to medical patients, and up to $385 million if the product is available to all adult users.

"Today is a historic day," said Casey Stuart, a long-time advocate for marijuana legalization in North Carolina. "The opening of this dispensary is a step in the right direction. It will save hundreds of lives by providing a safe alternative and bringing awareness about the risks associated with synthetic drugs." As the first legal medical marijuana dispensary opens in Cherokee, it marks the beginning of a new era for cannabis access in North Carolina.

Key Takeaways

  • Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians opened first medical cannabis dispensary in NC.
  • Dispensary marks the first legal sale of medical marijuana in the state.
  • Tribe decriminalized marijuana, formed medical system, and plans adult-use legalization.
  • Dispensary expected to generate $200-385 million in annual gross sales.
  • Dispensary opening is a milestone for medical marijuana legalization in NC.