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A new vote from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians' Tribal Council Jan. 12 was another step toward the Qualla Boundary legalizing the use of medical marijuana.

ASHEVILLE – Pieces continue to fall into place for what could be a thriving medical cannabis market inside the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ Qualla Boundary in 2023.

After it was made legal in 2021 and in the lead-up to medical marijuana being more widely available to buy and sell within its jurisdictional boundaries, EBCI Council members Jan. 12 voted to approve a resolution allowing legal language on the regulation of medical marijuana to be sent to the N.C. General Assembly, “to further the agenda effectively and efficiently coordinating in the administration of medical cannabis laws across the jurisdictions of the state of North Carolina and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians,” according to the resolution.

EBCI Chief Richard Sneed briefly addressed the council on the matter Jan. 12.

More:Cherokee Indians are legalizing medical marijuana in NC. Here’s what you need to know

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“All this is, is it as a matter of tribal law, before anybody does any work engaging with the state or federal legislature, we have to have permission of the governing legislative body to do so,” he said.

“Any tribal council member — chief or vice chief — who engages in Raleigh or in D.C., we need essentially marching orders to do so. As this next legislative session in Raleigh gets started and we’re down there doing lobbying work, this just grants permission for us to talk to them about medical cannabis, and the subsequent North Carolina law that will probably be on the floor during the next general assembly.”

Two council members addressed Sneed before the vote, Council member Dike Sneed questioning the chief’s use of the words “a majority of tribal members support the proper regulation.” 

Chief Richard Sneed, of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, in his office January 15, 2020.

Council member Sneed asked Chief Sneed how he knew there was a majority of tribal member support for the move toward the regulated legalization of medical marijuana.

Chief Sneed responded, noting a majority of council members had voted for the move.

Council in a mid-2021 vote of 8-4 greenlighted the historic move toward legalization. Council member Sneed was one of the four who voted against the legislation.

Chief Sneed noted his language in the Jan. 12 resolution referred to council members as representatives of constituencies: If a majority of them voted for the legislation, that pointed to popular support.

Related:Word from the Smokies: Museum of the Cherokee Indian honors ancestors by removing sacred objects

Council member Teresa McCoy said she wanted to be a part of state-level discussion about medical cannabis law, and made a motion to support the resolution.

Other than Cherokee right now, the places nearest to North Carolina for legal sales of medical marijuana are Virginia and Alabama.

The vote follows several other significant steps toward the establishment of a cannabis industry in the Qualla Boundary.

In late 2022, Qualla Enterprises LLC set up a website heralding a significant foray into hiring.

Qualla Enterprises will operate the medical cannabis business some time in 2023. 

The model will be figuratively and literally organic, according to the website.

More:A year after Buncombe native land project, county continues to amplify indigenous voices

“EBCI Farms will be the source for all of its products that are sold to the public,” it states. “Everything from seed to sale begins here. Being vertically integrated means that EBCI produces everything from seed to sale. Processing the cannabis plant is a key step in drying and manicuring the finished product as well as producing material to further  process into oils and other concentrates. Edibles use refined oils to determine how much THC is in each product.”

An EBCI-funded Cannabis Control Board will manage licensing, audits, standards, investigations and annual reports for the operation, according to EBCI medical marijuana code.

According to that code, and as previously reported by USA TODAY, there are numerous regulations around who can buy medical marijuana from EBCI sellers.

The ordinance says people age 21 and older with the following illnesses and health conditions (and who have the tribe’s medical cannabis patient cards) will be allowed to purchase marijuana from the tribe’s dispensaries: 

  • Acquired immune deficiency syndrome — known as AIDS — anxiety disorders, autism spectrum disorders, autoimmune diseases, anorexia nervosa, cancer, dependence upon or addiction to opioids, glaucoma. 
  • A medical condition or treatment for a medical condition that produces: cachexia (wasting syndrome), muscle spasms (including spasms caused by multiple sclerosis), seizures (including seizures caused by epilepsy), nausea, severe or chronic pain. 
  • A medical condition related to the human immunodeficiency virus. 
  • A neuropathic condition. 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. 

Other medical conditions and treatments may be added later.

Potential customers could have medical records reviewed by the Control Board, which issues medical cannabis patients cards. A card will be necessary for purchasing cannabis from EBCI sellers.

Applications for those cards will be open to EBCI members first and then nonmembers.

Andrew Jones is an investigative reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA TODAY Network. Reach him at @arjonesreports on Facebook and Twitter, 828-226-6203 or arjones@citizentimes.com. Please help support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.

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