Western NC reservation votes to legalize possession of marijuana

Marijuana sales will soon be legal in western North Carolina.

Voters on the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians reservation voted yes to legalize possession of marijuana Thursday night, according to the unofficial EBCI poll results. 2,464 people voted yes, while 1,057 voted no.


Workers just a few miles from Cherokee say they have been growing marijuana plants for the last year. They estimate more than 4 tons of the plants sit behind their barbed wire fences.

“It’s been here forever,” Jonathan Buddy Johnson told Channel 9′s Dave Faherty. “You have more people dying from the white man’s opioids and man-made stuff than you do from marijuana.”

Faherty spoke with several voters Thursday who strongly supported legalizing marijuana. They headed to the polls to vote “yes” on a referendum that would allow people on the 57,000 acres of tribal land to possess and use the drug.

“It’ll bring a lot of tourism and a lot of money into our tribe,” Alea Tisho said.

“I do feel like financially and medically it could be a good thing for our tribe,” Robert Martens said.

The tribe is already converting an old bingo hall into what’s being described as the world’s largest cannabis dispensary store. A manager there told Faherty the store and growing operation could employ as many as 400 people and will provide as many as 350 products for sale.

Rhonda Ledford hasn’t made up her mind.

“I think it can help some people, but I’m also afraid that some people are going to take advantage of the system like they do any other system,” she said.

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