CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE)- For the first time in North Carolina history, marijuana is now legal in one part of the state.
Thursday, the Tribal Council of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians legalized possession of up to an ounce of marijuana on tribal lands.
“This is a step where we’re going to help our people with this,” said Tribal Council member Richard French.
The Tribal Council passed the measure unanimously. As a sovereign nation, the tribe sets its own laws.
Marijuana remains illegal on both the state and federal level.
Principal Chief Richard Sneed told council members this was just the beginning.
“This is really just the first step moving towards medicinal (marijuana). We have to have this in place first,” said Sneed.
One tribal leader told FOX 46 they hope to eventually have dispensaries on the land. That could turn into a big moneymaker for them, but for some council members, money wasn’t the determining factor.
“I know several people that are smoking (marijuana) because it gives them relief,” said Boyd Owle of the council.
According to the ordinance, you can’t buy, sell or grow it on tribal land, but if you’re caught with less than an ounce of pot and you’re older than 21, then you’re perfectly legal.
Tribe members also hope with medical cannabis as an option, they might be able to get people away from alcohol and opioids.
“All of us have been affected by the opioids and lost loved ones,” French said. “I have a niece who one year ago today lost her life because of drugs.”