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Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Sends Medical Pot Regulations to N.C. Assembly

The following is an extract from the Citizen Times, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) Council met on Jan. 12 and successfully voted to introduce the tribe’s medical cannabis regulations to the North Carolina General Assembly. The resolution states that this is done with the intention “to further the agenda effectively and efficiently coordinating in the administration of medical cannabis laws across the jurisdictions of the state of North Carolina and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.”

At the Tribal Council meeting of twelve members, Richard Sneed, Chief of EBCI, spoke about the importance of maintaining contact with North Carolina legislators. “All this is, is it as a matter of tribal law, before anybody does any work engaging with the state or federal legislature, we have to have permission of the governing legislative body to do so,” Sneed said.

“Any tribal council member—chief or vice chief—who engages in Raleigh or in D.C., we need essentially marching orders to do so. As this next legislative session in Raleigh gets started and we’re down there doing lobbying work, this just grants permission for us to talk to them about medical cannabis, and the subsequent North Carolina law that will probably be on the floor during the next general assembly.”

The EBCI Council voted 8-4 to legalize medical marijuana in August 2021. Over one year later in November 2022, the EBCI announced that they harvested their first medical cannabis crop, and also began accepting job applications for the tribe’s medical cannabis dispensary, which is being operated by Qualla Enterprises LLC and is set to open sometime in 2023.

Qualla Enterprises was awarded $63 million by the EBCI Council in December 2022. Forrest Parker is the general manager of Qualla Enterprises. He stated that this will allow Qualla Enterprises to regulate their business. “It gives us a lot of confidence that we’re surrounded by people that have done this so many times, that have the experience, that have the understanding,” said Parker. “This tribe, I’m so proud of us for putting us in a position to learn from other people’s mistakes so that when we do this right, that number is precise. It’s not $150 million because we’re trying to cover all these things that we don’t know. We actually feel like we actually know.”


The EBCI also funds its Cannabis Control Board, which manages the company, such as licensing, audits and annual reports. David Wijewickrama who is an attorney and a member of the Control Board, gave some insights into 2023. “There are a lot of moving parts to this project that we’re learning every day,” Wijewickrama said. “The tribe’s given us a lot of resources to ensure this process succeeds.”

Only Virginia and Alabama have medical marijuana programs. The EBCI dispensary is only open for patients that have a tribal card for medical cannabis. These patients have to be certified as having acquired immuno deficiency syndrome. This includes AIDS, anxiety disorders or cancer.

The cardholder will have the right to buy one ounce or about 2,500 mgs of THC per day. They also can purchase no more than six-ounces per month (or 10,000 mgs) of THC. This restriction will remain in effect until August 2024. The board may then review the rules and make changes.

The EBCI can be one of several tribes that are interested in participating in the adult-use and medical cannabis industries. The Oneida Indian Nation in New York announced that they were looking to start a cannabis seed-to-sale business in 2023. Meanwhile, Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe and actor Jim Belushi partnered to open a dispensary for patients in October 2022. Next is the Seneca Nation of Indians which plans to open an dispensary at Niagara Falls in February 2023.

The Iipay Nation Santa Ysabel has its own dispensary in San Diego. NuWu Cannabis Marketplace, owned by Las Vegas Paiute Tribe is a marijuana dispensary.
Recently, the Lower Sioux Indian Community announced it would build a processing plant for hemp with the aim of building a home that can test hempcrete. “There are 20,000 uses for the plant. I can’t think of a better one for our community members than to give them a home that will last forever,” said Lower Sioux Tribal Council Vice President, Earl Pendleton.