North Carolina tribe begins state’s first medical cannabis sales on 4/20

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Hundreds of customers flocked to the Great Smoky Cannabis Co. on 4/20 to celebrate the launch of medical cannabis sales on tribal lands near Asheville, North Carolina.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) began MMJ sales Saturday at a 10,000-square-foot dispensary, Great Smoky Cannabis Co., on the Qualla Boundary, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported.

Marijuana sales are not legal in North Carolina yet, but Native American tribes such as the ECBI are permitted to establish marijuana programs on tribal lands outside the scope and enforcement of state officials.

The ECBI’s MMJ launch follows in the footsteps of tribes in Arizona, Minnesota, Nevada and New York.

Medical marijuana legislation passed the North Carolina Senate in 2022 and 2023, but both times, the state House of Representatives adjourned without hearing the bills.

Meanwhile, the ECBI legalized medical marijuana in 2021 and recreational cannabis last September, though there is no timetable for adult use.

The tribe’s moves have not come without pushback:

  • District Attorney Ashley Hornsby Welch, the top prosecutor for counties adjacent to the tribal land, said she will continue to enforce state law. Her plans are unclear, however.
  • North Carolina’s Republican senators, Thom Thillis and Ted Budd, questioned the legality of the ECBI’s moves in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, Drug Enforcement Administration chief Anne Milgram as well as state and local law enforcement.

Forrest Parker, general manager of Qualla Enterprises, which oversees Great Smoky, called the dispensary’s opening “historic.”

“It will be a conduit to generations of social, economic and spiritual growth, unlike anything that’s ever been witnessed,” Parker told the Citizen-Times.