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The Risks of Going to the Cherokee Marijuana Dispensary in North Carolina

In April 2024, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (ECBI) officially opened the state’s first medical marijuana dispensary in North Carolina. The group chose the date of “4/20” for this momentous occasion, and many local people are now considering whether to visit the business. To say that this establishment is controversial would be an understatement. The legality of the operation remains unclear, and several lawmakers have vowed to shut it down. Should you visit the Cherokee marijuana dispensary? Could you face criminal charges for buying medical marijuana in North Carolina


Lawmakers in North Carolina Vow to Take Action Against the ECBI


Various lawmakers and officials in North Carolina have vowed to push back against the ECBI’s dispensary. District Attorney Ashley Welsh says that she will “continue to enforce state law.” A number of senators have also sent letters to the US Attorney General and the chief of the DEA. After opening its dispensary, the ECBI announced plans to allow recreational purchases as early as June. This could lead to even more aggressive action from lawmakers in North Carolina. 


Do Not Attempt to Carry Marijuana Across State Lines


Marijuana is illegal on a federal level in the United States. If you plan to come to North Carolina from a different state to purchase medical marijuana, you must be very careful about transporting drugs over state lines. This may trigger serious federal charges. The dispensary is very close to major out-of-state cities like Knoxville and Greenville. These cities are located in two states that have yet to legalize marijuana on any level (South Carolina and Tennessee). Making the drive to Asheville might seem tempting, but the potential criminal penalties make this journey very risky. 


Does Indian Land “Count” as a Separate State?


The exact laws on Indian reservations are complex. According to Indian Affairs, both federal and tribal laws apply on this land. At the same time, the US recognizes tribal nations as separate, independent nations. Generally speaking, “lesser crimes” fall under the jurisdiction of tribal law, while “major crimes” fall under federal law. One would think that marijuana possession is a “lesser crime.” 


So what happens if you take marijuana from the Cherokee Nation back into North Carolina’s official borders? Is this the same as transporting marijuana across State lines? Would it trigger federal charges? The ECBI is not the first group to legalize medical marijuana. The Oglala Sioux Tribe made a similar move back in 2022, and KFF News reported that South Dakota Police had full authority to arrest and charge people transporting cannabis across the reservation’s boundaries. One would assume that the same laws apply to the ECBI’s dispensary. 


Work with a Marijuana Defense Lawyer in North Carolina


If you are facing charges after visiting the EBCI marijuana dispensary, contact a North Carolina defense lawyer as soon as possible. Choose Coastal South Law to work with a criminal defense attorney who has plenty of experience fighting marijuana charges. If you’re planning a trip to the dispensary, we can also provide guidance on how to avoid criminal charges. Book your consultation today. 

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