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  • Christopher D.

North Carolina Tribal Marijuana Dispensary: District Attorney Vows to Enforce Law

Tensions are rising in western North Carolina as the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians recently opened the state's first medical marijuana dispensary on 4/20. However, the local district attorney has vowed to continue enforcing North Carolina's marijuana prohibition outside the tribe's trust lands.

On April 20th, the Great Smoky Cannabis Company began sales of medical marijuana to qualifying patients from the Cherokee tribe, as well as non-tribal North Carolina residents over 21. This is permitted under the tribe's sovereign authority to regulate marijuana on its Qualla Boundary lands, despite state law.

State vs. Tribal Marijuana Laws 

North Carolina remains one of the minority of states without any legal medical or adult-use marijuana program. Cannabis is still entirely prohibited at the state level.

In contrast, the Eastern Band voted to legalize medical use in 2021 and adult-use in 2022 under their own tribal marijuana laws and regulatory system.  This exercise of sovereignty over marijuana cultivation and sales on reservation lands is backed by the U.S. Department of Justice policy.

"We will continue to enforce state law off Qualla Boundary," stated Ashely Hornsby Welch, the district attorney for the region. She emphasized that her office does not get to pick and choose which laws to uphold.

However, the tribe views the DA's statement as an "inflammatory" attempt to undermine their legal marijuana program and self-governance.

The Medical Marijuana Argument 

For thousands of Cherokee citizens and surrounding residents suffering from qualifying medical conditions, the Great Smoky Cannabis dispensary will provide much-needed access to marijuana's therapeutic benefits.

The list of conditions approved for medical use by the tribe includes chronic pain, PTSD, cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Crohn's disease and others. Marijuana has shown promise in alleviating many of these condition's debilitating symptoms when other treatments have failed.

Medical marijuana patient cards will soon be available to any North Carolina resident over 21. This will allow legal purchases from the tribe's dispensary with a doctor's approval. Many feel it is unethical for the state to continue denying this form of care that is now widely available. Over 80% of the U.S. population resides in an area with some form of legal marijuana access. Most Americans support legalization according to polls.

A Clash of Authority

As sovereign nations, tribes like the Cherokee have certain rights to self-governance and setting their own marijuana policies on tribal lands. However, state and local authorities claim jurisdiction over any marijuana activity occurring off-reservation.

This conflict of laws sets the stage for potential confrontations between state/local police and those traveling to or from the dispensary, in addition to legal battles over jurisdiction and regulatory authority.

Both tribal leaders and District Attorney Welch have signaled they will firmly defend their position even though the Great Smoky Cannabis Company dispensary opened this month. Residents impacted by North Carolina's dated marijuana prohibition find themselves caught in the middle of this high-stakes jurisdictional clash.

Get Ready for Medical Marijuana

Although medical marijuana is still not legal in North Carolina, it may legalized soon! You should be sure you are prepared for the program to become operational as soon as possible. In order to do this, you will need to get your medical marijuana card.

Reserve an evaluation online today, and we’ll book an appointment for you with one of our compassionate doctors just as soon as North Carolina’s medical marijuana market is fully operational.

You and your new doctor will meet virtually, using your smartphone, tablet, or computer for a telemedicine appointment. You’ll learn all about how medical marijuana may be able to help your conditions, without even leaving the comfort and safety of your own home. And you’ll even save $25 off the cost of the evaluation!


Doctors Who Care.

Relief You Can Trust.

Helping everyone achieve wellness safely and conveniently through increased access to medical marijuana. Our focus on education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce the stigma for our patients by providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.

If you have any questions, call us at (833) 781-7320, or simply reserve a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!

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