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Cherokee Council Legalizes Medical Marijuana On N.C. Tribal Lands

The tribal land will be the first area in North Carolina to legalize possession of Cannabis for any purpose.


The tribal council for the Cherokee in western North Carolina voted Thursday to legalize medical marijuana on tribal lands, reports Spectrum News. The tribal land will be the first area in the state to legalize possession of Cannabis for any purpose.

The vote makes possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by people 21 and older legal on tribal land, called the Qualla Boundary.

It’s still illegal to grow or sell weed on the tribe’s land. But things are only going to get better. Principal Chief Richard Sneed said this vote is just the first step. He promises a series of moves to legalize Cannabis on tribal lands.

“There’s so much science now supporting cannabis as a medicine,” Sneed told the Cherokee tribal council before the vote. “This really is a quality of life issue as well for folks who have debilitating diseases, chronic pain, chronic back pain, cancer.”

Principal Chief Richard Sneed, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
Principal Chief Richard Sneed, EBCI

‘We have to have this in place first’

“This is really just the first step, or kind of the cornerstone of moving toward medicinal,” Sneed said. “We have to have this in place first.”

“The people want cannabis, the world is changing, society is changing,” Jeremy Wilson, the EBCI’s government affairs liaison, said in an earlier interview. “We want to have dispensaries here on the Qualla Boundary and to be able to sell, but we have to start with this phase first.”

The Cherokee have sovereignty and make their own laws on the Qualla Boundary. The area includes about 100 square miles over five counties in western North Carolina.  

“Go out and visit with some of the elders, it’s their medicine,” council member Albert Rose said. Rose voted to approve the law.

Council member Richard French said legal medicinal marijuana could help the opioid epidemic in the area. “All of us have been affected by the opiods,” he said. “All of us have lost someone.”

“It’s for the betterment of our people,” French said in the meeting.

The Cherokee tribal council unfortunately removed one part of the ordinance. The excised section would have allowed people to give away small amounts of Cannabis without selling it.

Pot is still illegal in North Carolina, but possession of less than a half ounce is punishable only with a fine. A commission in North Carolina recently recommended decriminalizing possession of small amounts of Cannabis.

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