2023 A Look Back: Hard Joint to Pass Award – Smoky Mountain News

Sharing smokes has proven more difficult than anticipated for the winners of this award, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ cannabis business Qualla Enterprises LLC. 

Qualla Enterprises, first organized as Cherokee Medical LLC, has received $31 million in tribal funding since March 2022 and began growing cannabis for medicinal use this spring. The EBCI has big hopes for the business, which aims to employ nearly 500 people and to generate enough revenue to send $260 million back to the tribe by 2026. In September, tribal members voted overwhelmingly to support legalizing cannabis use for adults 21 and older, which would vastly expand the enterprise’s potential customer base.

But Qualla Enterprises has yet to turn a profit, in large part because it has yet to figure out how to transport cannabis from the farm on Coopers Creek to the main Qualla Boundary, where the dispensary is located. Driving between the two locations requires passing through a short piece of road under the jurisdiction of Swain County, where marijuana remains an illegal substance. Sheriff Curtis Cochran has made it clear he intends to enforce that law.

In a Facebook post following the September election, Qualla Enterprises said it expected the dispensary

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