Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Issues Medical Cannabis Cards in North Carolina

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The tribe recently issued its first medical cannabis card, marking a historic step in the state.

An indigenous tribe in North Carolina issued its first medical cannabis card last week, and is on track to become the first in the state to legally sell cannabis (1). The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) Cannabis Control Board stated it had already received more than 1000 applications for cards and over 800 have been approved (1). First to receive cards will be enrolled tribal members, then other residents in North Carolina will be able to apply (3).

In 2021, the tribe voted to legalize medical cannabis on the Qualla Boundary (1). Last month, the EBCI voted to legalize the possession and recreational use of cannabis (2). The dispensary is currently under construction (1).


"This is a great way to get their industry started for them, and to begin to improve the lives of their tribe and hopefully, with time, the [greater] North Carolina community," said Kevin Caldwell, of the advocacy organization Marijuana Policy Project (3). “I hear from patients all the time that medical cannabis is an exit substance to help them get off of much more harmful pharmaceuticals,” he added (3).

The first crop was harvested in November 2022, but issues such as transportation, lack of laboratory testing, and banking are still being solved (4).

“It’s a vertical market. We have to plant it. We have to cultivate it. We have to harvest it. We have to process it. We have to package it and move through all of that network of product and get it there. It’s a lot of people,” said Qualla Enterprises LLC general manager, Forrest Parker (1).

One bill in North Carolina’s Senate estimates that if medical cannabis is fully legalized, the state could gain $15.1, potentially increasing to $44.4 million by 2028 (3).


  1. Potter, N. Eastern Band of cherokee Indians approves First Medical Cannabis Cards (accessed Oct 20, 2023).
  2. McEvoy, E. Tribe in North Carolina votes to legalize recreational cannabis, sparking debate (accessed Oct 20, 2023).
  3. Lee, H.; Harris, M. North Carolina Cherokee to issue medical marijuana cards | (accessed Oct 21, 2023).
  4. Adlin, B. Indian tribe issues first medical marijuana cards in North Carolina as statewide legalization bill stalls (accessed Oct 20, 2023).