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5 Things to Know: Eastern Cherokee Indians to Allow Recreational Marijuana Sales

...and four more stories June 2-8, 2024

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council voted this week to amend its Tribal Code to allow the sale of recreational marijuana
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council voted this week to amend its Tribal Code to allow the sale of recreational marijuana. (Photo by Terrill White)

Eastern Cherokee Indians to Allow Sale of Recreational Marijuana

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council voted yesterday to amend its Tribal Code to allow the sale of recreational marijuana, opening the door for the state’s first recreational marijuana dispensary to open on the Qualla Boundary.

Qualla Enterprises General Manager Forrest Parker has estimated that the general public will be able to purchase from such dispensaries within 60-75 days.

The vote came just a matter of weeks after the state’s first medical marijuana dispensary, the tribe-owned Great Smoky Cannabis Co., opened on April 20. In September 2023, tribal members voted to approve the adult use of marijuana on tribal land without a cannabis card, though sales were not allowed until now.

The expansion of marijuana rights comes as Cherokee leaders look for new ways to diversify the tribe’s tourist draw, with casino revenue under threat due to increasing competition in the state.

Catawba Indian Nation’s Two Kings Casino opened as a temporary casino in Kings Mountain in 2021, launching a sportsbook the following year. On Friday, they finally broke ground on a permanent casino, which had been delayed due to a lawsuit between the Nation and its former casino developer.

In March of this year, sports betting became legal statewide, creating more competition for the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino hotel and resort. While exact revenue numbers aren’t known, the biannual per capita distribution payments for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians were down 8.6% in 2023 compared to 2022. December’s payment, specifically, was down 14.1%.

Republicans Unveil ‘Compromise’ Mask Bill

North Carolina Republicans have unveiled their compromise version of House Bill 237, which would make it illegal to wear a mask in public, after an outcry over the lack of an exemption for those who mask for medical reasons led lawmakers to pull the original bill last month.

Republicans have now added an exemption that would allow residents to wear a “medical or surgical grade mask” for the purpose of “preventing the spread of contagious disease,” though it leaves lots of room for interpretation. It doesn’t define what constitutes a medical or surgical grade mask, for example, and deputizes any business or property owner to force you to remove the mask upon request.

A new bill would criminalize wearing masks during protests as well as blocking traffic. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

The bill also still criminalizes protesting in the street, as it classifies willfully impeding traffic during a demonstration as a Class A1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 150 days in jail and a fine. Repeat offenses would be treated as a Class H felony, carrying up to three years in prison. The mask bill also threatens to hold organizers of street protests civilly liable for any injuries resulting from delays caused by obstructed emergency vehicles.

“Even though a health exception was added back in, H237 would allow police officers to stop anyone wearing a mask for any reason — or for no reason at all — raising serious Fourth Amendment concerns,” read a statement from Liz Barber, director of policy and advocacy at ACLU of North Carolina. “This bill will allow for even more targeting of Black and Brown communities by giving law enforcement the ability to stop anyone wearing a mask. This bill is part of an anti-democratic, nationwide trend to silence protests.”

Newly added to the bill presented Thursday is a seemingly unrelated provision that will allow donors to funnel a virtually unlimited amount of money into state elections through national political committees.

Mecklenburg County Passes FY 2025 Budget

The Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday adopted the county’s budget for Fiscal Year 2025. It totals $2.5 billion, an increase of $140 million (5.9%) over the current FY2024 operating budget.

The budget sets a property tax rate of 48.31 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, a one-cent increase in the tax rate as previously scheduled to fund the Capital Improvement Plan that was adopted last year.

The FY2025 budget includes a total of $153 million in new funding for health access, housing insecurity, educational attainment, workforce development, environmental stewardship, early childhood development, and reducing racial disparities. You can view the budget in full at the county website, including how those funding priorities were broken down.

New Airport Overlook Opens at CLT

The new permanent Airport Overlook at Charlotte Douglas International Airport welcomed its first visitors Friday. The 600,000-square-foot area was “designed to inspire the next generation of aviators,” according to a release on Thursday, featuring modern amenities, LED lighting, paved parking and an expanded food truck staging area.

The overlook also includes a retired U.S. military fighter jet, an F-4 Phantom II, on display alongside interactive exhibits featuring Carolinas’ aviation history. Young visitors will also be able to enjoy a mini air traffic control tower and runway designed to highlight key features of the airport. The site also includes a USAir Flight 106 memorial.

The new permanent Airport Overlook will be open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and admission is free. The entrance is located at the Old Dowd Road entrance, which was previously located on Josh Birmingham Parkway.

ESPN Unveils New Sport Courts at Sugaw Creek Park

County officials, community leaders and representatives of ESPN will gather in north Charlotte’s Sugaw Creek Park this afternoon for the grand opening of two refurbished courts that will host a range of sports and community-oriented programming at the park.

An artist works on the new refurbished courts at Sugaw Creek Park. (Photo courtesy of Think Beyond)

The project was led by ESPN in collaboration with Mecklenburg County Park & Rec, and sport-for-development organizations love.fuìtbol and RISE.

“The new space and accompanying programming, delivered by Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation and RISE, aims to provide opportunities for the communities in and around the area, by equipping them with additional tools to help address some of the social challenges they face,” read a release from ESPN.

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