Tribal ballot measure to legalize marijuana in North Carolina

Welcome to the Wednesday, August 23, Brew. 

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian voters to decide recreational marijuana measure on September 7
  2. Eight candidates to appear at tonight’s Republican presidential debate
  3. 54 candidates filed for congressional and statewide offices last week

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian voters to decide recreational marijuana measure on Sept. 7

Voters of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), a federally-recognized tribe in North Carolina of about 16,000 members, will decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana on Sept. 7.

If approved, the EBCI’s 57,000-acre Qualla Boundary in western North Carolina would be the only place in the state where marijuana could be legally purchased and used. Regardless of the outcome, recreational marijuana will remain illegal everywhere else in North Carolina, one of 26 states that currently ban the substance.

That’s because of the unique government-to-government relationship between most Native nations and the federal government. Native nations have tribal sovereignty, a legal concept that allows them to set their own laws on a variety of subjects as long as they comply with federal laws.

But isn’t marijuana illegal at the federal level, too?

It is. But, for a decade, the Department of Justice has not enforced those laws in states that have legalized the substance.

In 2013, U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole issued a memo explaining the change in enforcement priorities. 

The following year, the Department of Justice clarified that the federal government’s non-enforcement position also applied to the country’s 326 federally-recognized Native nations.

The EBCI already has a medical marijuana program, which the Tribal Council approved in 2021. The application process for enrolled members began in April of this year, and in June, it opened to all North Carolina residents. Medical marijuana is illegal elsewhere in North Carolina.

Similarly, the recreational legalization measure does not contain language limiting its purchase to enrolled members.

In addition to the marijuana measure, EBCI voters will decide whether to allow the Tribal Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission to issue mixed beverage permits to qualified establishments.

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Eight candidates to appear at tonight’s Republican presidential debate

Eight presidential hopefuls are set to appear in the first Republican presidential primary debate tonight, Aug. 23:

The debate will take place in Milwaukee and air at 8 p.m. CDT on Fox News with the network’s Bret Baier and Matha MacCallum moderating. 

Each of these candidates met a polling and fundraising threshold to qualify for the debate and signed several Republican National Committee pledges, including one to support the eventual Republican presidential nominee.

Former President Donald Trump met the qualifying thresholds but said in an Aug. 10 interview that he did not plan to sign the loyalty pledge. On Aug. 20, Trump announced he would not join the debate.

Two other candidates said they met the qualifying criteria in the days leading up to the Aug. 21 qualification deadline but ultimately did not make the cut: businessman Perry Johnson and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez.

With fundraising and polling thresholds and a loyalty pledge, tonight’s debate also represents a change in how candidates are selected to appear on stage.

In 2016, both major parties only used polling thresholds to determine debate participants.

In the first Democratic debate in 2020, candidates could meet either a polling or fundraising threshold.

In the 2016 election cycle, Democrats held nine debates, and Republicans held 12. In 2020, Democrats held 11.

Tonight’s first debate has the smallest number of participants since the five candidates who participated in the first Democratic debate in 2016.

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54 candidates filed for congressional and statewide offices last week

Last week, 54 candidates filed to run for congressional and state offices—including for elections in 2023, 2024, 2025, and 2026.

That’s down from 39 the preceding week. Since the start of the year, we’ve logged an average of 43 candidate filings per week.

This year, we’ve identified 1,403 declared candidates for federal and state offices. At this time in 2021, we had identified 1,720 candidates for 2022, 2023, and 2024 races.

Of last week’s declared candidates:

  • 26 are Democrats;
  • 26 are Republicans;
  • Two are minor party candidates.

Eighteen of last week’s candidates are running for state legislatures, four for governorships, and six for other state executive offices. Most of last week’s candidates—26—are running for Congress: five in the Senate and 21 in the House. Here’s a look at where those House candidates filed:

We cover elections for tens of thousands of offices across the country. Part of that work includes keeping tabs on the candidates—both declared and official—running for those offices.

For more information about how we determine candidacies and a full list of candidates running for Congress in 2024, click the link below.
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