EBCI Tribal Council approves adult recreational cannabis

Tribal Council voted June 6 to legalizes the sale and consumption of cannabis on the Qualla Boundary. Tribal Council voted June 6 to legalizes the sale and consumption of cannabis on the Qualla Boundary. File photo

About nine months after members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians voted overwhelmingly to legalize the sale of marijuana and other cannabis products for adults over the age of 21, Tribal Council made it official during its June 6 meeting.

But recreational sales won’t begin right away. At a May 30 work session, EBCI Attorney General Mike McConnell also said he believed it’ll still be about two to three months before Qualla Enterprises has the capacity to “open the adult use doors.”

Notably, a floor amendment was passed that allows enrolled members with medical cannabis cards to grow up to four plants at their residence. However, a last-minute provision was included in that amendment at the behest of Principal Chief Michell Hicks that prevents people with minor children in the home from growing marijuana, despite the fact that there is nothing prohibiting a person with minor children in the home from purchasing, possessing or using marijuana.

The medical marijuana program, approved in 2021, will still serve those with EBCI issued cards. The cannabis control board accepts applications from North Carolina residents over the age of 21. The cost for issuance to residents is $100 and $50 for enrolled EBCI members. There are several approved conditions, including anxiety disorder, eating disorders and cancer. Applications can be submitted at

The tribe expects its cannabis industry to quickly evolve into a cash cow. Neither medicinal nor recreational cannabis is currently legal in North Carolina, Tennessee or South Carolina, and in Virginia and Georgia, only medicinal marijuana is legal. Qualla Enterprises anticipates employing somewhere around 500 people and making enough money by fiscal year 2026 to send the tribe $260 million in profits. It’s also expected to make money for the tribe through generating a tribal levy, akin to a sales tax.

The Great Smoky Cannabis Company dispensary is located at 91 Bingo Loop Road.

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