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North Carolina’s first medical marijuana dispensary opens

CHEROKEE, NC – The Great Smoky Cannabis Company in the Qualla Boundary has opened its doors to medical patients, becoming a day that marks the state’s history. It is the only dispensary in the state where marijuana can be legally purchased.


What you need to know

  • The Great Smoky Cannabis Company in the Qualla Boundary is the only dispensary in the state where medical marijuana can be legally purchased
  • On the morning of April 20, lines spilled out of the pharmacy doors for the company’s grand opening
  • To purchase from the dispensary, individuals must be over 21 years of age and possess an EBCI medical cannabis patient card or an approved medical marijuana card from another state

In 2021, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ Tribal Council voted to legalize medical marijuana within the Qualla Boundary. Marijuana remains illegal in North Carolina and federally; The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ laws on medical cannabis apply only to tribal lands.

To purchase from the dispensary, individuals must be over 21 years of age and possess an Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) medical cannabis patient card or an approved medical marijuana card from another state.

On the morning of April 20, lines stretched out of the pharmacy doors as people from far and wide gathered to experience opening day.

Chris Suttle was one of the first people in line, traveling from Chapel Hill to attend the grand opening. He said he has been waiting for this day for 32 years.

“My phone was full of people, just sending me messages saying, ‘I just called! My card is ready for collection! ” said Suttle. “I saw so many familiar faces in line today, people who have talked to me over the past five or six years, waiting for this day. Waiting for the day when we no longer have to die in the dark, and we can finally learn to grow and heal in the light.”

Seven years ago, Suttle was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and was told he had about 9 to 12 months to live.

“I developed my own microdosing procedure and started microdosing regularly for three months,” says Suttle. “When I went back in to do the next MRI, the tumor had shrunk by 0.1 centimeters, and three months after that I was given a clean bill of health.”

Suttle said it was that experience that led him to start a lobbying organization in North Carolina for the legalization of cannabis and psychedelics.

“I decided that first appointment when they told me the tumor had shrunk and that if cannabis would save my life, I would dedicate my life to it,” Suttle said.

Suttle said he helped several patients sign up for their medical cards, teaching them how to retrieve forms from their patient portals and what doctor notes and materials would be accepted.

“We are coming together and finally getting access to the medicine we deserve,” he said.

Suttle reflected on the broad impact he expects the pharmacy to have, believing it will help medical patients and promote tourism in the Qualla Boundary.

“As long as they follow the rules and don’t bring products across the border, they have nothing to fear when they get here,” he said. “They can enjoy the casino. They can enjoy the beautiful nature trails and the waterfalls.”