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North Carolina Cherokee Indians Are Opening The State’s First Dispensary

Emily Mullins

by Emily Mullins

April 1, 2024 11:58 am ET Estimated Read Time: 3 Minutes
Fact checked by Kymberly Drapcho
North Carolina Cherokee Indians Are Opening The State’s First Dispensary

Cannabis is not legal in North Carolina for medicinal or recreational purposes yet, but one group has their own rules–the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI). On April 20th, they’re opening a medical dispensary on tribal land, with products available for purchase to tribal and out-of-state cardholders. The dispensary will sell a variety of cannabinoids, including flower, vapes, edibles, and topicals.

Officially dubbed the Great Smoky Cannabis Company, this dispensary is opening in a former bingo hall near the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Company. When North Carolina launches its own medical cannabis program, all qualified state residents will be able to purchase products.

“With a commitment to quality, compassion, and education, Great Smoky Cannabis Co. aims to provide patients with safe and regulated access to medicinal cannabis products,” Qualla Enterprises wrote in their official press release. “The new dispensary will open with high-quality tested products—including flower, vape products, edibles, topicals, and more—carefully curated to meet the diverse needs of patients. Product selection will continue to grow and evolve each month.”

Current projections demonstrate that the Great Smoky Cannabis Co. could earn up to $206 million in its first year of operation. By its fifth year, it could be making $578 million from medical cannabis patients alone. If adult-use marijuana is legalized, the profits stand to be even higher.

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As such, the ECBI is working on legalizing recreational cannabis for tribal members, with the first initiative passed in September 2023. The dispensary is only going to sell to medical cardholders initially, but they plan to eventually open up to recreational use as well.

The company currently employs 69 people, but over 1,400 applied for the positions when they were first listed. The dispensary’s plant health specialist, Jared Panther, stated: “It’s definitely surpassed what we were expecting. A lot of people are curious about what we’re doing, and a lot of people are coming out to show support for what we’re doing, what we love to do. We’re creating opportunity in a lot of ways.”

The new dispensary honors the Cherokee nation’s long-intertwined history with cannabis as a medicine and the tribe’s views regarding their connection to the land. They’re also making sure women have plenty of involvement, as stated by Quall Enterprises chairperson Carolyn West. “We have many females who work on the farm,” she said. “They trim, they do production, they’re doing amazing work. I think they’re excited that we can possibly be making history, being the first tribe [and government] in North Carolina to legalize marijuana. And this product is safe, it’s tested, it’s going to be in child-proof containers, the safest means possible is what we’re doing here.”

The Great Smoky Cannabis Co. marks a significant step forward for the EBCI and for those who view cannabis as a medicinal treatment for a variety of disorders. The EBCI is excited to provide this to tribe members, as former EBCI principal Chief Richard Sneed explained. “The Council’s approval of a medical marijuana ordinance is a testament to the changing attitudes toward legal marijuana and a recognition of the growing body of evidence that supports cannabis as medicine, particularly for those with debilitating conditions like cancer and chronic pain.”

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