Home Blog Dispensaries Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians To Open First Dispensary in North Carolina

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians To Open First Dispensary in North Carolina

North Carolina-based Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) will officially be opening its cannabis dispensary on tribal land, effective as of April 20. This will also mark the opening of North Carolina’s first dispensary, since state legislators have not legalized medical cannabis.

The EBCI tribe lies on 57,000 acres, called the Qualla Boundary. According to a press release published on March 25 by Qualla Enterprises, LLC, the company clarified that only medical cannabis patients will be able to purchase from the dispensary, called Great Smoky Cannabis Company. “With a commitment to quality, compassion, and education, Great Smoky Cannabis Co. aims to provide patients with safe and regulated access to medicinal cannabis products,” Qualla Enterprises wrote. “The new dispensary will open with high-quality tested products—including flower, vape products, edibles, topicals, and more—carefully curated to meet the diverse needs of patients. Product selection will continue to grow and evolve each month.”

Only current medical cannabis cardholders (issued directly by the EBCI Cannabis Control Board) over 21 are permitted to purchase products once the dispensary opens. Qualla Enterprises added that out-of-state patients are welcome as well. “We will also extend reciprocity to individuals with out-of-state medical cards, or other tribal medical cannabis cards,” the press release stated. Medical cannabis card registration opened up in June 2023, and the first cards were issued starting in October 2023. At that time, 1,005 card applications were received, and the board had approved 817 of them.

Great Smoky Cannabis Company is opening in a building that was once a bingo hall, not far from Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort. Currently, the product lineup includes dried flower, vape-related items, edibles, and topicals, although they plan to increase the selection over time.

The Charlotte Observer was invited for a private tour of the dispensary in March 2023. At the time, Qualla Enterprises said that the dispensary would only be accessible to EBCI tribe members with approved medical cannabis cards. Eventually, patients throughout North Carolina with medical cannabis cards will be invited to shop at the dispensary.

Qualla Enterprises’ early projections show that the Great Smoky Cannabis Company could collect up to $206 million in gross sales revenue during the first year of operation if they only limit sales to medical cannabis cardholders. If, or when, cannabis becomes available to adult-use consumers as well, the dispensary could collect an estimated $385 million.

Projections from HedgeRow Analysis state that by the dispensary’s fifth year of operation, it could collect $578 million from medical cannabis patients, or $843 million if adult-use consumers are allowed to purchase.

At a tribal council meeting, EBCI stated that approximately 1,400 people had applied for cannabis-related jobs (while only 350 openings were available at the time). Currently, the Great Smoky Cannabis Company only employs 69 people.

In September 2023, the EBCI passed an adult-use cannabis referendum. Qualla Enterprises told The Charlotte Observer more recently that once the dispensary opens on April 20, it will only be available to those who hold patient cards first. Sometime in the near future, the dispensary will open up sales to more adult-use consumers.

During that same month, the EBCI held a limited time three-hour open house, inviting tribe members to get a sneak peak of the dispensary. “It’s definitely surpassed what we were expecting,” said the dispensary’s plant health specialist, Jared Panther. “A lot of people are curious about what we’re doing, and a lot of people are coming out to show support for what we’re doing, what we love to do. We’re creating opportunity in a lot of ways.”

Quall Enterprises chairperson, Carolyn West (who attended the dispensary sneak peak last year with her dog, Mr. Daniels), was thrilled about the tribe’s movement into the cannabis industry. “Qualla Enterprises acknowledges the Cherokee core values of maintaining their strong connection with the land and honoring their past,” West told The Charlotte Observer.

She added the importance of honoring the Cherokee people’s use of cannabis as ancient medicine, and its inherent matrilineal society. “We have many females who work on the farm,” West explained. “They trim, they do production, they’re doing amazing work. I think they’re excited that we can possibly be making history, being the first tribe [and government] in North Carolina to legalize marijuana. And this product is safe, it’s tested, it’s going to be in child-proof containers, the safest means possible is what we’re doing here.”

The EBCI legalized medical cannabis cultivation, sales, and consumption in August 2021. At the time, former EBCI principal Chief, Richard Sneed, explained the importance of providing tribe access to medical cannabis to treat conditions like cancer or chronic pain. “The Council’s approval of a medical marijuana ordinance is a testament to the changing attitudes toward legal marijuana and a recognition of the growing body of evidence that supports cannabis as medicine, particularly for those with debilitating conditions like cancer and chronic pain,” Sneed said.

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