The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), members of which last month voted to legalize adult-use cannabis, began issuing its first medical cannabis patient cards last week. It’s a major milestone for the program, which was passed by the Tribal Council in 2021 but has yet to see a single sale as the result of numerous delays.

It’s still not clear when registered patients will actually be able to shop in the tribe’s dispensary on the 57,000-acre Qualla Boundary—technically the only place within North Carolina where cannabis is legal in any form as a medical cannabis bill continues to stall in the state legislature. But last Thursday, officials issued the tribe’s first medical cannabis card, according to the newspaper Cherokee One Feather.

Neil Denman, executive director of the EBCI Cannabis Control Board (CCB), said at a Cherokee Police Commission meeting on Thursday that 1,005 applications for registration cards had been received so far, and the board had approved 817. Another 129 were marked incomplete due to a lack of required information, such as a photo ID, and 59 were denied for lack of a qualifying condition.

One of the biggest hurdles the tribe has faced is how to legally transport cannabis to its dispensary. Part of EBCI’s production procedure involves transporting medical cannabis along a short stretch of state-owned roadway, which Swain County officials have said in the past would be a problem given that cannabis remains illegal in North Carolina itself.