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Eastern Band Opens Marijuana Dispensary in Cherokee

Marijuana in jars

In late April, the federally recognized Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians opened a long-planned cannabis dispensary in western North Carolina, making it the only location where “medical cannabis” can legally be purchased in the state. According to its website, The Great Smoky Cannabis Co. sells its products to adults over the age of 21 with a tribe medical cannabis patient card or an out-of-state approved medical marijuana card. In early June, the tribe took it a step further and approved an ordinance that could legalize the recreational consumption of marijuana this summer.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ recognition as a sovereign nation allows the tribe to enact certain policies on tribal lands that may conflict with state laws. It is still illegal to manufacture, sell, or possess marijuana elsewhere in North Carolina.

According to the Tribe’s website, its “laws on medical cannabis only apply on tribal land… Cannabis is still illegal under federal and North Carolina law.” It indicates that the card does not entitle people “to take medical cannabis off of tribal land.”

While marijuana remains illegal elsewhere in the state, the Qualla Boundary includes 56,600 acres, which provides a large area where qualified individuals now may legally consume marijuana. This will significantly complicate the enforcement of state and federal laws when people leave tribal lands and will open the door for widespread consumption of marijuana, especially if the tribe votes to allow marijuana for recreational use.

Obtaining a Tribe Medical Cannabis Patient Card

The tribe currently controls the issuance of all in-state medical cards. To obtain one, an individual must be 21 years or older, have proof of North Carolina residence, have been “diagnosed with one or more of the 18 debilitating conditions currently recognized for medical cannabis intervention,” and pay an annual $100 fee (unless they are an enrolled member of the tribe, in which case the fee is $50). “A prescription or recommendation from your doctor is not required,” the website states. “You are required to submit written documentation of one or more of the 18 health conditions with your application.”

Elsewhere in North Carolina

Last year, state lawmakers considered legislation that would have legalized the manufacture, possession, and use of marijuana for a variety of “medical” purposes. The bill, Senate Bill 3, failed to receive approval last year but remains eligible for consideration this session.

The Dangers of Marijuana

Marijuana is often touted as a harmless drug. This is not true. Immense health risks include:

Drug abuse and addiction.

  • Change in brain function.
  • Lung disease.
  • Intoxication and impaired driving.
  • Developmental interference.
  • Impaired cognition.
  • Psychological illness.
  • Cardiovascular abnormalities.
  • Cancer.”

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has not approved marijuana for medical use and the American Medical Association, and the American Psychiatric Association do not support its use as medicine without proper research – so this additional legalization is very concerning.

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