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Cherokee chief vetoes $64 million for medical marijuana superstore. What we know.

The principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has vetoed spending a final $64 million to open the tribe’s long-anticipated medical cannabis dispensary in Western North Carolina.

In a Facebook message to tribal members Friday, Richard Sneed said he vetoed the Tribal Council’s recent approval of the final $64 million for the project because the original proposal said the entire project would be completed for $50 million.

Sneed attached a copy of a letter he sent to Tribal Council Chairman Richard French informing him of his veto and his reason.

“The fact that this project’s original cost for an outdoor grow, an indoor grow and an indoor dispensary was $50m, and we are now being told it is $95m, demonstrates that there is an immediate need for a full accounting of the money that has been expended to date,” Sneed wrote.

Sneed told French he “fully supports cannabis, both medical and adult use.” He also is “encouraged and inspired” by tribal workers at the growing operation at Cooper’s Creek on the tribe’s Qualla Boundary in Cherokee, he added.

The operation is run by Qualla Enterprises LLC, the tribe’s for-profit medical cannabis arm.

Yet, Sneed told French, “I am very troubled by the lack of accountability for the managing of the business side of the operation. The current projected cost is almost 100% over budget as compared to the original RFP projected cost.” RFP stands for “request for proposals.”

It wasn’t immediately clear Saturday how Sneed’s veto will affect the opening of the dispensary on U.S. 19 South near Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort.

Forrest Parker, Qualla Enterprises’ general manager, planned to give a statement to The Charlotte Observer Saturday afternoon, Qualla Enterprises executive assistant Kara Howard said.

On an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the growing operation in late March, Parker told the Observer he expects the mega dispensary to open “in a limited capacity” in late summer or fall.

The Cherokee’s 57,000-acre territory is a sovereign nation outside the bounds of North Carolina’s prohibition on marijuana.

The Tribal Council first voted about two years ago to legalize controlled use of marijuana on Cherokee land and to grow and sell it.

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Joe Marusak has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1989 covering the people, municipalities and major news events of the region, and was a news bureau editor for the paper. He currently reports on breaking news.
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