North Carolina Cherokee Chief Rejects $64 Million Proposal for State’s First Dispensary

The so-called marijuana superstore is scheduled to open later this year in North Carolina.

A tribal chief in North Carolina has reportedly vetoed a proposed $64 million in additional spending for what is expected to be the state’s first medical cannabis dispensary. 

The Charlotte Observer reports that Richard Sneed, the principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, said in a Facebook message on Friday that “he vetoed the Tribal Council’s recent approval of the final $64 million for the project because the original proposal said the entire project would be completed for $50 million.” 

“The fact that this project’s original cost for an outdoor grow, an indoor grow and an indoor dispensary was $50m, and we are now being told it is $95m, demonstrates that there is an immediate need for a full accounting of the money that has been expended to date,” Sneed wrote in the message, as quoted by the Charlotte Observer

The tribe is currently planning on opening a massive, cannabis superstore that will be the first marijuana dispensary in North Carolina. According to the Charlotte Observer, the “Cherokee are converting their massive old bingo hall into the dispensary that is a first of its kind in North Carolina — the only location that would be in a three-hour’s drive from Charlotte where weed is sold legally.” 

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians approved an ordinance in 2021 to legalize medical cannabis on its land. 

“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 at the time.

In November, the tribe announced that it was starting the the first harvest of its marijuana crop.

There are no other dispensaries in North Carolina, where both medical and recreational cannabis are illegal under state law, but the Cherokee, as with other tribes throughout the United States, have sovereignty over their land.

According to the Charlotte Observer, in his Facebook post on Friday, Sneed “attached a copy of a letter he sent to Tribal Council Chairman Richard French informing him of his veto and his reason.” 

The Observer has more background on the dispute:

“Sneed told French he ‘fully supports cannabis, both medical and adult use.’ He also is ‘encouraged and inspired’ by tribal workers at the growing operation at Cooper’s Creek on the tribe’s Qualla Boundary in Cherokee, he added. The operation is run by Qualla Enterprises LLC, the tribe’s for-profit medical cannabis arm. Yet, Sneed told French, ‘I am very troubled by the lack of accountability for the managing of the business side of the operation. The current projected cost is almost 100% over budget as compared to the original RFP projected cost.’ RFP stands for ‘request for proposals.’”

The dispensary is expected to open sometime this year. 

Lawmakers in the North Carolina legislature have pushed a bill that would legalize medical cannabis treatment in the state. 

Republican state Sen. Bill Rabon introduced a bill earlier this year called the “North Carolina Compassionate Care Act,” which would legalize the treatment for a host of qualifying conditions including: “Cancer; Epilepsy; Positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDs); Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); Crohn’s disease; Sickle cell anemia; Parkinson’s disease; Post-traumatic stress disorder … Multiple sclerosis; Cachexia or wasting syndrome; Severe or persistent nausea in a person who is not pregnant that is related to end-of-life or hospice care, or who is bedridden or homebound because of a condition; A terminal illness when the patient’s remaining life expectancy is less than six months; [or] A condition resulting in the individual receiving hospice care.”

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