Dinilawigi (Tribal Council) approves adult-use cannabis

by Jun 7, 2024NEWS ka-no-he-da0 comments


One Feather Asst. Editor


CHEROKEE, N.C. – Adult-use (recreational) cannabis is a signature away from being legal on the trust lands of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI).

Dinilawigi (Tribal Council) passed Ord. No. 63 (2024), during its regular session on the morning of Thursday, June 6, legalizing adult-use (recreational) cannabis on EBCI lands.  Nine Dinilawigi representatives voted to pass, Aniwodihi (Painttown) Rep. Dike Sneed and Vice Chairman David Wolfe voted not to pass, and Tutiyi (Snowbird) – Tsalagi Gadugi (Cherokee Co.) Rep. Adam Wachacha was absent.

The ordinance will not become law until ratified by Ugvwiyuhi (Principal Chief).

EBCI voters approved a referendum during the 2023 General Election on Sept. 7 which asked, “Do you support legalizing the possession and use of cannabis for persons who are at least twenty-one (21) years old and require the EBCI Tribal Council to develop legislation to regulate the market?”  The referendum passed 2,464 (yes) to 1,057 (no).

Qualla Enterprises, LLC, an EBCI tribal entity, operates a cannabis farm and a dispensary (Great Smoky Cannabis Co.) which opened on April 20 for medical cannabis sales only.

Ord. No. 63 amended Cherokee Code Chapters 14 and 17.

Chapter 14 deals with controlled substances.  Several possession charges were taken out of chapter, and Sec. 14-95.12 was added which outlines “Prohibited Marijuana Conduct” that will be in Cherokee Code as follows:

  • It shall be unlawful for any person, business, or other entity to:
  • Possess marijuana when the person is less than 21 years old;
  • Provide, give, or transfer in any way, marijuana to any person less than 21 years old;
  • Cultivate marijuana without a valid license, valid agent card, or a valid medical cannabis patient card issued by the EBCI Cannabis Control Board;
  • Operate any marijuana facility without a valid license issued by the EBCI Cannabis Control Board
  • Sell marijuana without a valid license from the EBCI Cannabis Control Board;
  • Sell hemp or hemp products without a valid license from the EBCI Cannabis Control Board
  • Possess marijuana in any place where possession is prohibited by the conspicuous posting of a sign or notice by the owner or possess of the location;
  • Consuming marijuana in public;
  • Possess or consume marijuana within 100 feet of a school, child day care facility, church, hospital, tribal government building, public park, playground, community club building, or public swimming pool, or community facility as defined in Chapter 17;
  • Transport marijuana, hemp, or hemp products in the passenger area of a motor vehicle in other than the manufacturer’s unopened original container;
  • Consume marijuana, hemp, or hemp products while driving a motor vehicle on a highway or public vehicular area as defined as Chapter 20 of the Cherokee Code.

Two floor amendments were passed prior to the main legislation being passed.  An addition, submitted by Aniwodihi (Painttown) Rep. Michael Stamper, was added to Sec. 17-74 regarding the sale of cannabis and hemp on EBCI trust lands as follows:

  • The tribal government shall control the sale of all forms of cannabis on tribal lands.
  • There shall be no cannabis facility license, other than a license for a for a cannabis laboratory, issued to any person or entity other than an entity wholly owned by the Tribe organized under Tribal law or one of its wholly owned subsidiaries organized under Tribal law.
  • Hemp and hemp products may only be sold by an entity wholly owned by the Tribe organized under Tribal law or one of its wholly owned subsidiaries organized under Tribal law.

Elawodi (Yellowhill) Rep. Tom Wahnetah submitted a floor amendment which replaces the proposed Sec. 17-80 with new language listing “exemptions from tribal prosecution for certain acts involving marijuana”.

Sec. 17-80 gives the amount of marijuana that can be possessed, delivered, or produced under the law as “two and one-half ounces of usable marijuana; four marijuana plants, irrespective of whether the cannabis plants are mature or immature”.

It also allows people with a valid medical cannabis patient card to produce marijuana (no more than the four plants mentioned) as long as the person does not reside with a minor child.

Ugvwiyuhi Hicks said he supports that prohibition.  During discussion on the legislation on Thursday, he noted, “I think we have to look forward into how are we impacting the future generations.  I respect the health use of cannabis…I just woke up with that on my heart – how do we make sure that our children are not influenced?  It’s an adult decision.”