December 5, 2023 7:24 am

Local News

Qualla Boundary Begins Harvesting Medical Cannabis to Sell Next Year

Credit: iStock

Parker Wallis

A sovereign Cherokee nation in western North Carolina has begun harvesting medical cannabis from their greenhouses and expects to open the largest retail store for medical cannabis in the US by next year, tribal officials told The Charlotte Observer. 

The Cherokee nation, known as the Qualla Boundary, is about an hour west of Asheville and has one of the largest tribal workforces in the state with 7,500 employees. Currently, there are 40 workers on the job (80 percent of whom are tribal members) who have been growing marijuana since the summer. The tribe plans to employ 400-500 workers, and they hope to have the dispensary open around January 1st. 

“I’m really proud of my tribe taking this step, one with the betterment of this community in mind,” said Forrest Parker, general manager of Qualla Enterprises LLC, the tribal subsidiary responsible for growing medical cannabis on the Cherokee land. 

“Most special to me is the employment opportunity,” Parker continued, adding that the business can teach workers “skills they can use for the rest of their lives in what is a very well-paying industry.”

The tribal council approved growing, selling, and using the product last year, which makes the territory the first place in North Carolina where medical cannabis is legal. According to the tribe’s website, its status as a sovereign nation means “it has its own laws, elections, government, institutions, and the like,” which allows for the legalization of cannabis within a state where it is not yet legal. Presently, South Carolina and 11 other states have not yet legalized medical cannabis. 

Principal Chief Richard Sneed said that the council’s approval of the operation is a testament to “the changing attitudes toward legal marijuana and a recognition of the growing body of evidence that supports cannabis as medicine.” 

Among the ailments that medical cannabis can address, Sneed said that patients with “debilitating conditions like cancer and chronic pain” will find relief with what the tribe has to offer. 

Additionally, Cherokee leaders said non-members of the tribe will be allowed to purchase medical cannabis so long as they meet criteria and receive a card from the tribe’s EBCI Cannabis Control Board.

The tribe’s website currently advertises the products that will be available to medically qualified patients over 21 years-old upon opening, including flower, pre-rolls, edibles, concentrates, and topicals. 

Patients will be limited to buying one ounce of cannabis per day and are not permitted to exceed six ounces per month, or 2,500 mg of THC in medical cannabis products per day and less than 10,000 mg per month. 

By January of next year, residents in the Qualla Boundary and North Carolina will be able to seek medical treatment and find much needed relief in the form of cannabis-based products made by majority tribal workers.