CHEROKEE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – A referendum vote on the Cherokee Indian Reservation could have impacts statewide on the recreational use of marijuana.
Tribal members are voting on whether to allow recreational use of marijuana to those over the age of 21. It would be the first place to allow it in North Carolina if approved.
“I think this will lead the state to approve it,” said Brandon McMillan, one of the tribal members who voted Thursday. “[The state] doesn’t like to lose out on a dollar.”
It could also put a massive spotlight on the reservation to see if there is a future for marijuana statewide.
“In my friend group, it’s mostly for,” said Kristin Washington, another tribal member voting Thursday. “We see the potential for job growth and the money from it.”
The push for approval has come with pushback, as there has been criticism that the tribe is moving too fast.
Rep. Chuck Edwards, a Republican congressman representing the mountains of western N.C., where the reservation is located, has drafted legislation that would strip some highway funds from Native American tribes that approve recreational marijuana.
However, in Cherokee, attitudes toward marijuana and the claims that it is a “gateway drug” have been changing.
“I went to the open house of the dispensary, and I saw a lot of people that that I didn’t expect to see, and that’s a good sign of support,” said Washington.
A dispensary has started but is not currently open to the public.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, however, has approved the use of medicinal marijuana on tribal lands.
“We have new concerns. Fentanyl, meth, those kind of concerns,” said McMillan.
Legislators in Raleigh have been making efforts to get medicinal marijuana passed in N.C., but legislation has largely stalled.
Queen City News reached out to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians tribal government for any statement or interview ahead of Thursday’s voting result but have not heard back.
Locally, the York County-based Catawba Nation, another federally recognized tribe in the Carolinas, said they have no plans to pursue any action involving marijuana.
Unofficial results came in Thursday night, but tribal leaders are still compiling results as of Friday morning.