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North Carolina Cherokee Tribe Votes to Legalize Recreational Marijuana

Republican Congressman, however, seeks to withhold highway funds from tribes permitting recreational cannabis.

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Cherokee tribal members have voted in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana in a historic referendum, making their reservation the only place in North Carolina to do so.

The vote on September 7 saw overwhelming support, with 2,464 individuals voting in favor and 1,057 opposing the change, reported The Asheville Citizen-Times. While the referendum is not technically binding, the Tribal Council has expressed its support for the move, indicating it will require legislative action.

The vote marks a significant progression from the 2021 tribal decision to permit medical marijuana, with the medical system now poised to serve eligible patients. Leaders of the tribal for-profit medical marijuana business, Qualla Enterprises LLC, anticipate substantial revenue generation and the creation of 400 jobs.

Despite this, opponents argue that marijuana legalization may negatively impact mental health, particularly among young people. Republican Congressman Chuck Edwards, who covers most of Western North Carolina except for Cherokee lands, is advocating for federal action to halt tribal legalization. His proposed “Stop Pot Act” aims to withhold 10% of federal highway funds from the Eastern Band and other tribes and states that allow recreational marijuana.

“The laws of any government should not infringe on the overall laws of our nation, and federal funds should not be awarded to jurisdictions that willfully ignore federal law,” Edwards stated before the vote.

Qualla Enterprise leaders contend that research supports the positive effects of adult-use cannabis, citing studies showing decreases in crime and improvements in public health, including reduced opioid-related emergencies in states with legalized recreational cannabis.

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